Edward Little High School STEM teacher Eric Eisaman. Submitted photo

Keeping students engaged in STEM education — science, technology, engineering and math — involves a blend of hands-on experiences, interdisciplinary learning, research experiences, collaborative learning, and the use of digital tools, according to Auburn’s Edward Little High School STEM Teacher Eric Eisaman, who was recently honored for his efforts in engaging students in STEM education.

He became interested in teaching math and science through his late father, a former teacher and school administrator. His naturally inquisitive nature about the world around him was nurtured by his childhood growing up on a farm.

The 10-year Edward Little teacher found MaxIQ curriculum through the Maine K-12 Space STEM Program after searching for a specific type of technology program for his students to use in the classroom. Through the program, his students are able to use certain types of electronic kits to connect to a data dashboard. It also supports various other topics including data science, coding, big data, and robotics, among others.

Earlier this month he won an award from the program for being the “most engaged with his students under trying conditions,” according to an Educate Maine press release.

While appreciative of the award, Eisaman says the real reward for him is using the program and seeing that it has given his students invaluable skills and knowledge that will serve them in future academic and professional endeavors.

How do you keep your students engaged in STEM education? Engaging students in STEM education is a multifaceted task that requires a combination of strategies aimed at stimulating interest, fostering creativity, and promoting hands-on learning.

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One of the most effective strategies is to provide hands-on experiences that foster creativity and innovation. This could be through project-based learning experiences, in which students work on real-world problems, build models, or conduct experiments.

Involving students in research experiences can also be particularly impactful. Research mentoring programs, in which students are paired with faculty members conducting research, can provide students with a deeper understanding of the scientific process and can foster a sense of belonging in the STEM community.

What are some of the fun projects or lessons that you enjoy the most in the Maine K-12 Space STEM Program? I was delighted to witness my students’ enthusiastic engagement as they designed their own Internet of Things sensor system to assess the comfort levels of specific areas in our school. They also thoroughly enjoyed the process of designing their own high-altitude balloon experimental sensor payload.

Our high-altitude balloon module, equipped with sensors, gathered data that provided valuable insights into the atmosphere. Specifically, we used atmospheric pressure data to calculate the balloon’s altitude during its flight, leveraging the inverse relationship between atmospheric pressure and altitude.

In addition to pressure, we collected temperature data to understand the thermal characteristics of different atmospheric layers. The analysis of temperature variations with altitude helped us identify the boundaries of these layers. Furthermore, we analyzed the relationship between temperature and pressure to understand atmospheric phenomena and weather patterns.

This type of empirical data analysis, derived from first-hand observations, is particularly effective in facilitating comprehensive understanding and long-lasting knowledge retention among students.

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Do you find that kids are naturally curious about these subjects or do you have to pique their interest? From my perspective, students tend to be naturally intrigued by the vast array of technologies and their practical uses. The biggest obstacle I face is cultivating a sense of self-assurance among students, ensuring they feel capable of effectively utilizing the skills and practices essential for thriving in STEM professions.

How can a better understanding of these subjects benefit our society and the world, overall? A better understanding of STEM-related skills and concepts among high school students can have a profound impact on society and the world. It can lead to advancements in various fields, foster innovation and sustainability, increase the global reach and level of STEM literacy and contribute to closing the STEM achievement gap. STEM education plays a crucial role in preparing the next generation of professionals who can make a positive difference in the world.

Why is closing the STEM achievement gap important and how could these fields of study benefit from closing that gap? Closing the STEM achievement gap is essential to increasing access to quality STEM education for all populations, promote inclusive teaching practices, provide mentoring and role model opportunities, and provide support systems and resources. This includes targeted efforts to support the Wabanaki tribes of Maine, the Black population, those living in poverty, recent immigrants, and women — all have historically been underrepresented in these fields.

Closing the STEM achievement yields numerous benefits for the STEM fields themselves.

First, it brings about diversity, which is key to innovation. When people from diverse backgrounds contribute their unique perspectives and experiences it can lead to more creative problem-solving and innovative solutions.

Second, it addresses the growing demand for STEM skills. By closing the achievement gap, we can ensure a sufficient supply of skilled workers to meet this demand.

Third, it can help reduce income disparities. STEM careers generally offer higher salaries compared to non-STEM jobs, which can significantly improve the economic conditions of underrepresented groups.

Finally, it can lead to more equitable societal development. By ensuring that all individuals, regardless of their background, have the opportunity to contribute to and benefit from advances in STEM, we can promote a more inclusive and sustainable future.

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