What does STEM mean?

The acronym STEM derives from another acronym, SMET, introduced by the National Science Foundation of North America in the 1990s. The concept was created to renew an older argument that, with a decrease in young people opting for scientific careers, this would have a negative impact on the country's scientific, technological, economic and social development, so it would be necessary to change the educational and funding policy to reverse this dark picture. Its normalization in recent decades in political discourse required a better conceptualization, which can be summarized as follows:

An integrative concept of knowledge and disciplinary practices of the various disciplines involved, which individuals use to generate or validate new knowledge, solutions to problems or products (Kelley and Knowles, 2016, p. 3) and services.

The transfer of this concept of STEM to education can be described as a meta-discipline that summons, in an integrated way, knowledge, skills, attitudes and values ​​of the disciplines that compose it, as well as the individuality of teachers and students, expanding its agency through the development of skills to solve local and global problems or aspirations, improving individual and social well-being.

Aprendizagem STEM situada
Situated STEM Learning (adapted from Kelley & Knowles, 2016, p. 4)

One of the conceptual frameworks proposed for STEM in education, Situated STEM Learning (Kelley & Knowles, 2016), is represented by four pulleys (scientific inquiry, technological literacy, mathematical thinking and engineering design), a rope (community of practice) and a load (Situated STEM Learning). In this system, each pulley links common practices in the 4 subjects, joined by the rope of the community of practice. When learning is anchored in a situated context, proposed as an engineering challenge, it becomes authentic and relevant, being representative of a real STEM experience.

Academi@ STEM Mangualde (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) aligns with these conceptual frameworks and tries to put them into practice in Mangualde since 2018, around a meta-disciplinary vision in which interdisciplinary activities are developed, using active learning methodologies, the experiences and motivations of students and teachers, promoting 21st century skills to improve the agency of both in the local context of Mangualde, in School and in their daily lives.