Welcome to the complete teacher’s guide to STEM labs! Here you’ll discover what a STEM lab is, the different technologies you’d typically find in one, the benefits of learning in STEM laboratories and so much more...
Table of contents
What Does STEM Stand For in Education?
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. STEM education is focused on developing students’ skills and connecting these subject areas, preparing them for future careers and the real world. It’s a key area of teaching worldwide, with thousands of schools now investing in learning spaces specifically designed to support STEM – called STEM labs!
What is a STEM lab?
“A STEM lab is a learning environment where students, irrespective of grade, can come together and actively participate in hands-on or practical STEM learning.” @cath_avantis - Educational Specialist, Avantis Education
Simply put, STEM labs are educational spaces that encourage active learning and problem solving! In these STEM laboratories, students can develop their science, engineering and mathematics skills by using technology to create, collaborate and complete projects - learning and applying knowledge to find new solutions. Imagine a technology-enhanced learning environment where everything is student-centred and supports theme and project-based learning. That’s a STEM lab!
Designing a STEM Lab – What STEM Lab Equipment Should You Include?
“It’s important when selecting the equipment to include in your STEM lab that you focus on what can help students develop their mathematical and problem-solving skills. Consider how these different technologies can be used in collaboration, this can be anything from simple wooden blocks to 3D printers & virtual reality headsets.” – @cath_avantis - Educational Specialist, Avantis Education
To maximise learning in a STEM lab, it’s important to consider how applications and technologies can work together as part of project-based learning. Every STEM lab will include devices such as interactive whiteboards, PCs, laptops or tablets. These devices provide a whole suite of online STEM resources to support 3D model creation, develop coding skills, control robotics and more!
Basic Design Materials
Let’s start with the basics of STEM. This can include anything from wooden blocks, cardboard, glue, paper, scissors, Playdoh and Lego - basically any objects that students can use to construct and build structures. Although simple, learning with these materials can encourage students to grow their critical thinking and engineering skills.
3D Model Creation Software & 3D Printers
To take these engineering skills further and develop design skills, students can use computer-aided design tools such as Paint 3D, Blender or Tinkercad to get creative and design 3D shapes and objects. These models can then be turned into physical prototypes with the help of a 3D printer (and virtual reality headsets, but we’ll get to that later!).
Coding & Robotics
For older students, or those who want to progress beyond the basics of design materials, a great technology to build problem-solving skills is STEM lab robotics. Using solutions like Shape Robotics, students can easily construct their own robots using clickable technology, and then develop their coding skills by getting these robots to move using code!
Another great example of a software that allow students to create virtual spaces and even virtual worlds is CoSpaces! Here students can get creative, practice their critical thinking and work collaboratively with others to create their spaces which their peers can review as a whole class.
Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality (VR & AR)
Virtual and augmented reality is at the heart of STEM labs! VR & AR integrates with all the technologies in a STEM lab, enhancing the technology-based learning experience.
Using solutions like ClassVR, the all-in-one virtual reality technology for schools, educators can truly take their STEM teaching to the next level. Teachers can provide additional context, capture students’ imaginations, and ultimately develop the teaching & learning experience.
Whether students are travelling the world with virtual field trips, examining AR models to check for mistakes before 3D printing, venturing through virtual worlds they’ve created in CoSpaces, or simply exploring incredible STEM resources – the possibilities really are endless!
Benefits of Learning in STEM Labs
“STEM labs are designed to help students learn how to work as part of a team, solve problems and apply their knowledge in advanced and creative ways.” – @cath_avantis - Educational Specialist, Avantis Education
- Encouraging creativity and innovation among students
- Promoting teamwork and collaboration
- Facilitating the use of technology to support projects
- Providing new opportunities and skill sets
- Improving critical thinking skills
On top of all of these benefits, STEM labs are exciting and FUN! By actively participating in lessons and learning with inspiring edtech, students are more engaged and motivated with science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Examples of STEM Labs & Projects
Initiatives and funding are helping schools introduce STEM labs worldwide. These projects are designed to help encourage students to build STEM skills, knowledge and even consider future careers in the sector.
Over in the US, the Verizon Innovative Learning Schools Program is helping fill the digital divide for Title I schools. By providing access to more than 100 innovative STEM labs in schools across the country, Verizon are allowing over 1 million students to learn, discover and build STEM skills in their Innovative Learning Labs!
Another great example is the INACO project introduced in Romania, which has already seen the launch of 20 labs with 1100 to be built by the end of 2025. Similarly, In Poland the Laboratoria Przyszłości program is supporting primary schools across the country by providing funding that can be used to implement STEM technology.
That’s your complete teacher’s guide to STEM labs! Are you ready to start your STEM lab initiative?