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ERIC Number: EJ1197948
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2019
Pages: 5
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-2158-0502
Tumblewings in Tanzania: How International Are Integrated STEM Activities and Approaches?
Bartholomew, Scott R.; DeSplinter, Marlee
Technology and Engineering Teacher, v78 n4 p26-30 Dec 2018-Jan 2019
Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education, integrated STEM education, and integrative STEM education are all actively pursued teaching approaches currently being highlighted in the United States and abroad (Sanders, 2009; Semali & Mehta, 2012), and in recent years the increase in interest, engagement, and pressure to further advance the fields of STEM education has been widely seen and felt (Wells & Ernst, 2012/2015). Despite the push for integrated STEM education, many of the activities and resources developed and spotlighted for these efforts may have not been developed with a worldwide audience in mind (Marginson, Tytler, Freeman, & Roberts, 2013). Considering the stark differences in educational practices, cultures, and resources between countries (Marginson, et al., 2013), the authors set out to explore the transferability of STEM lessons, ideas, and activities across select nations, cultures, and continents. The research question guiding this exploratory research study was: What are the implications of using an Integrated STEM activity--developed in the United States--in another country with different cultures, expectations, classrooms, and resources? Based on the research questions, this article details a research project located in Tanzania, and the United States. It was determined that a scientific inquiry pedagogical approach would be best suited for this exploratory project on Tumblewings. Tumblewings, which are made from lightweight paper (e.g., tissue paper or newspaper), float, or tumble through the air in a similar manner to confetti. As an integrative STEM activity with a heavy emphasis on scientific inquiry skills, tumblewings have been a useful activity for students from elementary school through higher education (Bartholomew, 2017). As teachers emphasize the manipulation of variables tied to a tumblewing, students are encouraged to record the resulting outcomes, which can stimulate and facilitate a scientific inquiry approach. Bartholomew (2017) contains a template and worksheet with possible applications for tumblewings in an integrated STEM classroom. The lesson plan, worksheets, templates, and resources were used to guide an initial implementation of the tumblewings integrated STEM lesson at a suburban middle school in the Midwest. During the spring of 2017 the student researcher traveled to Boma, Tanzania for 20 days as a volunteer teacher at a local Tanzanian school with 367 students. In most classes the students ranged from 13 to 18 years old. All students were given the tumblewing worksheets written in both Kiswahili and English. The worksheet included a table for students to record data relative to their design decisions and the outcomes attained by their tumblewing. The findings from this study come from multiple sources: the student worksheets from both the United States and Tanzanian classrooms, the observations of the student researcher from both locations, and the field notes from the student researcher--made immediately following the implementation of the lesson plan. After completing the lesson, it was evident to the researchers that integrative STEM activities and approaches developed in the United States and other first-world countries may not be immediately effective and implementable across the globe--even if the activities are intentionally developed with inexpensive supplies and/or language-training materials. Unspoken cultural norms, classroom expectations, and teacher-student relationships all played a key role in the effectiveness of the chosen STEM activity and lesson. Cultural differences and educational paradigms, which run deeper than supplies, language, or pedagogical approaches, will need to be understood and incorporated into planning for a truly internationally integrated STEM approach to be effective.
International Technology and Engineering Educators Association. 1914 Association Drive Suite 201, Reston, VA 20191-1539. Tel: 703-860-2100; Fax: 703-860-0353; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Middle Schools; Secondary Education; Junior High Schools
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Tanzania; United States