Though most STEM teachers know the importance of letting students explore, it’s usually the students who struggle with “exploration”. We are living in a world where students get immediate feedback whenever they make decisions, so they’ve come to expect it, and they’re so afraid or failing that they don’t want to take the next step without knowing what will happen.
Challenge your students or your children to experiment, to explore, and yes, to make mistakes. Challenge them to have a very broad idea of what to expect. If you need to, explain that things like the microwave, silly putty, and even Viagra were invented by mistake, as their inventors were trying to create something else.
Challenge them to answer their own questions by exploring. Whether that means the adult not answering questions for a 30-minute period, or just leaving the room (parents, this option is more for you since teachers wouldn’t be allowed this luxury), push them to find their answers by doing things themselves. One more important piece of the exploration puzzle is keeping a log or journal of what they’re doing. Have them record their hypotheses, their observations, their discoveries, their successes AND failures (very important to experience both), all conclusions, and how they came to each conclusion. This journal should include sketches and ideas, and it should probably look a bit sloppy and disorganized. The idea is for them to develop a strategy and see if it works.
We have created a list of STEM Challenges especially geared toward exploration.