As teachers continue to plan for remote learning during school closures, short online projects can be extremely effective. Exploring STEM careers can be fun and valuable at the same time. Read on for suggestions for STEM career projects for all grade levels.

Images of people in various science and engineering careers that students can learn about, like statistician, epidemiologist, microbiologist, and marine biologist

Now that the flurry of the early days of school closures due to COVID-19 are settling down, educators are getting a better picture of what online learning with their students may look like and what may be realistic for students.

As you plan your remote learning assignments and activities, we encourage you to consider a STEM career project. This is a research project of sorts, but it can be scaled by grade level to make it something short enough and doable enough for students at home.

STEM Career Projects

Doing a "career"-focused project can be a really effective way to keep students excited about science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) during school closures and as part of your online learning strategy. A career project assignment is perfectly suited for remote learning. Students don't need additional supplies (beyond Internet access), and students can submit, share, or present their projects in a variety of ways, including using Google Slides or other online tools. In addition, career-focused projects integrate reading and writing practice and can encourage creativity, too, in how the presentations are made.

Plan a STEM Career Assignment

To make it easy to grab-and-go, here's a basic outline for doing a STEM career assignment remotely with students:

  1. Have students browse the Careers in Science area. If you are webcasting your learning sessions, you might do a live walkthrough of a sample career profile with students. You can learn more about the layout of our career profiles in the Help Students Explore STEM Careers post.
    Tip: Make sure to point out the "tabs" that hold careers in different areas (like Life Sciences, Engineering, and Health).
  2. Have students select a career of interest. If you are working on a themed unit, you might create a short list first of careers for them to choose from. Or, you might have them use the Topic Selection Wizard, find a science project of interest, and then look at the related careers listed at the bottom of the Procedure tab and select one of those. Alternately, just send them to the science careers area to browse and find a career to learn more about!
  3. Have them read about the career. Encourage students to read the whole career profile (all the tabs).
  4. Have them respond to questions. Questions for reflection or directions to summarize information helps them synthesize and articulate what they've read as well as encourages them to reflect on ways their own skills and interests do or don't match up to the job.

    Sample questions you might ask include:

    • What career did you choose? Why did you choose it?
    • What does someone in this job do?
    • What sounds most interesting to you about this career?
    • List 5 adjectives that you would use to describe someone in this career.
    • List three things you might work on if you had this career.
    • List three student science projects you could do to explore science related to this career. (Hint: Related projects can be found on the Project Ideas tab of each career profile.)
  5. Submit the responses — or use them as a starting point for a presentation. Responses to the questions above (or the list you create) could be turned in as a short report (shared as a Google Doc or submitted via Google Classroom), or the responses could be used as the basis for a presentation, as described below.

Simple Career Presentations for All Grade Levels

After doing the preliminary work described above, you might have students take the following steps to create short presentations related to the careers they researched. We have made suggestions here for presentations at the elementary, middle, and high school level. You can pick and choose elements that best fit the needs and skills of your students.

Note: If you were assigning a career research project during a typical school year, you might ask for additional components. However, at this time, many teachers are finding that they need to realign expectations for remote learning work.

Suggestions for STEM Career Project Presentations:

  • Elementary school students:
    1. Write 3 sentences pretending you have this career and are introducing yourself to someone. (For example, "Hi, my name is Jane, and I am a bioengineer.) Try to include who you are, what you do, and where you do it.
    2. Draw yourself working in this STEM career. Try and include something related to a project or task you would work on if you were this kind of scientist.
  • Middle school students: Use Google Slides (or a similar presentation tool) to make a short presentation about the STEM career. Be sure to include:
    1. The title of the career
    2. A short summary of the career
    3. What education you need to get this career
    4. An example of a science question someone in this job might ask, research, or experiment with
    5. Bonus: write a "job hiring ad" that could be used to advertise for a job opening for this career
  • High school students: Use Google Slides (or a similar presentation tool) to make a short presentation about the STEM career. Be sure to include:
    1. The title of the career
    2. A summary of the career
    3. What education you need to get this career
    4. 2-3 examples of science questions someone in this job might ask, research, or experiment with
    5. 2-3 headlines from recent (last 2-3 years) science news articles that are related to this career or field of science (Students can search science news articles at Science Buddies as a starting point.)
    6. 1-2 companies who hire people in this field
    7. Bonus: Can you find a story online (a biography, a profile, an article, or a video) about someone in science history (or alive today) from this field? If so, share a bit about this scientist.

Additional Inspiration for Science Career Research

To encourage students to learn more about scientists and engineers throughout history, we recommend sharing these resources with students, too:

STEM Career Bingo

For younger students, be sure and check out the free STEM Career Bingo game as another tool for STEM Career discovery. This game is part scavenger hunt and part bingo and a great way to have kids learn more about science and engineering careers.

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