As you can see, the team puts a big focus on creating content that is not only project-based, but also engaging and relevant. The fact that each performance task is built around a specific career is one of my favorite components of their site. From the get go, students no longer need to ask, “why are we learning this” because the assignment is built around a real-world problem.
One of the main points that the Defined STEM team emphasized when I was exploring their resource, is that this is not designed to replace existing curricula. Instead, it is meant to be a supplemental resource that teachers can draw upon when they want to integrate relevant activities that are focused on 21st century skills and problem solving activities.
When teachers first sign on to the main page of Defined STEM, you’ll be able to search by standard, grade level, or subject area. Grade level might be the easiest to start with, but if you have a specific standard in mind, that’s also a good place to begin. Speaking of the standards, the team already has all the state and CCSS standards loaded into the site, so if you’re in a US public school, you should be good to go!
Once you begin you’ll search, you’ll see that each performance task is broken down by a specific career (as mentioned above). You’ll also be able to see a summary of what the project is about, and the kind of work the students will be doing. Overall, it’s an incredibly easy to navigate interface and I think once you’re in, you’ll have no trouble doing some exploring and finding what you’re looking for.
Each specific performance task includes everything you could ever possibly want as an educator. Rubrics, directions, introductory videos, additional articles that the students can use for research, the standards the activity is aligned to, a variety of culminating projects that the students can select from, and even video guides for the students so they can better understand how to tackle a project/assignment like this and learn how to work through the steps.
There is also a social and collaborative component to Defined STEM that allows for teachers to comment on and share any lesson that they find useful. It’s a great feature for extending the resource outside of your own classroom.
Plus, in addition to all the PBL activities, they also have a large collection of literacy activities that can be used in conjunction with a performance task, or on their own. These activities focus on things like explanatory writing and argumentative writing, and they also include all the resources you could ever need.
And if all that wasn’t enough, Defined STEM makes it incredibly easy to customize any of the lessons so they can better fit your needs. You can either down the activity as a word document, or modify it directly on the web in their editing program. This way, you can make the lesson perfectly fit your classroom.
When you’re ready for students to access the resources, you could either print them out (great for schools who are limited in technology resources) or send out the link that is given on the side of the dashboard. When you send out the link to students, you can also customize what they’ll see. So maybe if you only want to offer some of the culminating projects, or a few of the articles, or filter the articles based on reading level, or anything along those lines, that can easily be done!
Overall, Defined STEM is an outstanding resource and one that I wish I had had access to while I was teaching 10th grade biology. The ability to incorporate real-world authentic learning tasks, without having to actually create all the associated materials, is incredibly beneficial and absolutely worth considering. Plus, the fact that they have lessons which can be used in every core subject area is even more impressive. With all that being said…
The opinions expressed in this review are my own.
I was not compensated for writing this review