Part 1…. Connecting It All…. A STEM, PBL, Common Core Series… A Goldmine of Resources


Welcome to a series that is must read for any PBL or STEM educator.  It will include information to reflect and build upon as you consider both PBL and STEM.  Best of all, it will finish with over 50 amazing resources you will want to investigate.  First, to ensure you do not miss one of these valuable posts or other resources covering PBL, Digital Curriculum, Web 2.0, STEM, 21st century learning, and technology integration please sign up for 21centuryedtech by email or RSS.  As always,  I invite you to follow me on twitter (@mjgormans). Please give this post a retweet and pass it on. Have a great week – Michael Gorman (21centuryedtech)

Quick Note Please feel free to join me for a free webinar this Wednesday at  (4/24) at 3:00 PM EDT entitled STEM PBL in  Middle School.  This is being presented through BIE (BUCK Institute), who are leaders in PBL across the globe. Hope to see you there! I have been getting a lot of requests asking if I will make a visit to your school, organization, or conference. Please be aware that I am available to assist you in providing professional development and presentations. I have had the opportunity to network in person across the country and invite your inquiry at my booking information page and at

The STEM and PBL Series

  • Part 1…. Connecting It All…. A STEM, PBL, Common Core Series… A Goldmine of Resources
  • Part 2… Secondary Ideas To Build With…. A STEM, PBL, Common Core Series… A Goldmine of Resources
  • Part 3…  17  Challenges and Competitions ….A  STEM, PBL, Common Core Series… A Goldmine of Resources
  • Part 4…  23 Formative Digital Resources ….A STEM, PBL, Common Core Series… A Goldmine of Resources
  • Part 5… 14 Amazing Project Sites…. A STEM, PBL, Common Core Series… A Goldmine of Resources

Part 1…. Connecting It All…. A STEM, PBL, Common Core Series… A Goldmine of Resources

What is STEM?

As most of us know, STEM includes the integration of the curricular areas of Science, Technology, Math, Engineering, and Technology. In prior education, and in many places today, learning is distributed  in separate components. In other words each subject, while related, is taught in individual rooms, time slots, and in accordance to its unique curriculum  While it may be difficult to instantly restructure to a STEM infrastructure, we must begin to find ways to connect and find meaning for students in the STEM area of study.

Some educators, including myself, like to include the Arts and call it STEAM. This promotes the creativity and innovation that are important in the STEM field. I also feel that the Common Core will bring about a strong call for literacy. This opens up the area of Language Arts and STEM. Let’s not forget that the STEM fields have a big social impact… so why not include Social Studies areas? As we begin integrating the subjects, encouraging innovation, promoting authentic learning in a real world, and integrating disciplines we must look at PBL (Project Based Learning) as a vehicle to make it  happen. Project Based Learning promotes an active learning experience through which a project facilitates student learning. Of course this requires careful educator management and knowledge. You can read about some of these ideas in other posts at 21centuryedtech.

STEM and PBL… A Connection!

Yes there is a connection and it can be seen as we discover the Eight Elements of PBL as stated by BIE (BUCK Institute)… a world leader in PBL. Let’s take a moment to examine these Eight Elements and focus on the STEM Connection.

1. Significant Content – It is the delivery and student understanding of content that is so important. Not just the “What and Why”… but also the “Apply and How”. While students will need to demonstrate content knowledge, the Common Core and new science standards suggest understanding and real world application of content. STEM and its integration of subjects is the content. Please read an article I have titled 10 Way To Ensure Significant Content in this past post at 21centuryedtech.

2. Twenty First Century Skills – While this is a phrase that seems to be used quite a bit, it  important these skills are incorporated and assessed. These skills really are not taught, but are integrated as part of the PBL process. Sometimes referred to as the 4 C’s, (Critical Thinking, Communication, Collaboration, and Creativity) they are essential to the STEM disciplines, and it is the integration that develops and  amplifies these skills.

3. In Depth Inquiry – This is so important, but is often one of the hardest concepts to promote. In short blocks of times,  kept in separate quarters, students are often given pre-loaded questions that are “Google-able”. In depth inquiry is a convergent/divergent process that brings about new questions from prior questions. The STEM fields, and our future, rely on our students’ ability to answer questions with new questions. This  allows their learning to spiral into areas of higher cognition.

4. The Driving Question – The Driving Question is at the heart of PBL. It is not a restatement of an Essential Question”, but instead drives learning and inquiry with a student “Need to Know”. The world is ready for STEM minds that are filled with Driving Questions that will investigate our future potential and possibilities. Please read an article I have dedicated to Driving Questions in this past post at 21centuryedtech.

5. A Need to Know – As stated in the Driving Question, this “Need to Know” is the sense of engagement that is essential to student learning. It answers the question, “Why do we need to learn this?”, as it uncovers the standards. The STEM curriculum is built on a “Need to Know” and PBL allows for an authentic action plan based on knowledge that is uncovered.

6. Voice and Choice – Students must have a voice and choice in their learning. This does not always mandate a choice on content, since this is often predetermined. It does allow for a voice and choice in method of learning, product outcomes , and an audience.  STEM provides ample opportunities for this and I will cover many of these opportunities in future posts.

7. Revision and Reflection – This is the foundation for building rigor which  seems to be such an important concept in today’s educational setting. Revision and reflection promotes a practice of quality. It allows the entire learning community to participate including community mentors, educators, and student peers. STEM relies on a formative learning experience that is a part of revision and reflection. It is the tinkering, remixing, and practice that is essential in both the PBL and STEM learning environment.

8. Public Audience – It is important that student’s work go beyond the class bulletin board, the home refrigerator, and the teacher grade book. Engagement and rigor will increase as students are given an audience beyond their school and classroom. STEM subjects have the natural foundation to promote a public audience. Many times the audience can be seen in fairs, challenges, and competitions.

As you can see, there really is a connection between STEM and PBL through the examination of the Eight Essential Elements found in Project Based Learning. John Dewey said, “Give the pupils something to do, not something to learn; and the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking; learning naturally results.” It is this practice that is at the very center of PBL and STEM. As we all begin to look at the new science standards and the Common Core it can be seen that PBL facilitates in STEM the “Apply and How’. Of course the final result will also be “What and Why”…  and we can save that for the test.

Thank you for joining me and if you have an idea that you feel is important please leave a comment or pass it on to me in an email. I hope you found this information something you can use in your school and to share with other educators.  As always , I invite you to follow me on twitter (@mjgormans). Please give this post a retweet and pass it on to someone who will benefit.   To ensure you do not miss a future valuable post or other resource covering PBL, Digital Curriculum, STEM, 21st century learning, and technology integration please sign up for21centuryedtech by email or RSS. Have a great week… enjoy the Discussion! – Mike (

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