The Flexible-E Learning Model

If you like the 5 E's, you are going to love using the Flexible-E learning model for its added emphasis on hands-on activities and experiential learning. Flexible-E offers more versatility and freedom for the order that you organize hands-on NGSS learning activities and active experimentation in your classroom.




Hands-on is like sunshine! It shines on everything and helps me grow!

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The Flexible-E learning model promotes hands-on experiences and exploration throughout the learning process. 

STEMTaught's Hierarchy of Hands-on Learning

STEMTaught designs each hands-on experience used in the classroom to enhance a specific type of learning activity. All hands-on experiences are not equal. STEMTaught's hands-on curriculum is implemented to precisely engage students during specific steps in the learning process. STEMTaught distinguishes between the following practical implementations of experiential learning:

1. Use a hands-on experience as an icebreaker activity or attention getter (Before explanation and elaboration)

2. Use hands-on exploration as a way for students to discover technical concepts on their own (Before explanation and elaboration)

3. Use involvement in a concrete experience to revitalize interest for learning in between watching, listening, and reading (During explanation)

4. Use a hands-on experience to prompt deep thinking and solidify understanding (After explanation and during elaboration)

5. Use hands-on experimentation to prompt critical thinking and abstract conceptualization (After explanation and elaboration)

6. Use the engineering design process as a way for students to show what they know and discover what they lack in understanding (After explanation and elaboration)

Some exploration activities are best to do before getting too technical!



(Noni Fruit)

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These students collect seeds and observe the microscopic structures that make seed dispersion possible before reading in the STEMTaught Journal. It's okay to conduct a simple hands-on exploration such as this before reflective learning activities. 

Children Need Hands-On More Than Any Type of Learner!

The idea that hands-on and experiential learning activities should be woven throughout the learning process is especially important for children and adolescents who are still discovering the world around them for the first time. Children commonly  may not have past experiences or background context to help them understand STEM subject matter. It is very common for K-6 students to miss major concepts while watching, listening, and reading new material. To learn effectively, kids need hands-on experiences in the classroom more than any type of learner. Additionally, STEM subjects are naturally conducive to experiential learning activities, so take advantage of doing hands-on in your classroom! There are so many things to try, do, and discover in STEM. Hands-on can play an irreplaceable role in developing understanding of STEM vocabulary for english language learners who may not have any other way to relate to new vocabulary and concepts. Without effective implementation of hands-on learning, english language learners can be locked out of developing a proficient STEM vocabulary all the way to adulthood! Do more hands-on!

Some hands-on activities are best done after technical reading

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(Passion Fruit)


These students relate to their reading material (reflective learning) through active experimentation as they test the ability of sense receptors in the finger tips to distinguish braille patterns. The results of their experiment will be the basis for abstract conceptualization.

Learning While Doing is at the Heart of the Flexible-E Model 

The Flexible-E learning model is an instructional design model that defines a learning sequence based on the experiential learning philosophy of John Dewey and the widely used experiential learning cycle proposed by David Kolb. Experiential learning is at the core of STEMTaught’s methodologies. STEMTaught created the Flexible-E  learning model to address shortcomings of the 5 E model and provide more directed focus on utilizing hands-on activities effectively

in classrooms. Learning while doing is at the core of the STEMTaught learning experience. STEMTaught empowers teachers to bring effective hands-on learning experiences into their classroom by providing amazing materials and resources and through digital training resources. The Flexible-E model was developed from observations made while running over 3,000 hands-on labs in classrooms.




I'll have the Flexible-Es Please!

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To leverage the instructional value of experiential learning activities, class discussions can help students make connections to concepts presented in the STEMTaught Journal as they reflect on their reading and on their hands-on experience.

The Flexible-E Model Embraces Kolb's Learning Philosophy

STEMTaught’s Flexible-E model embraces Kolb’s philosophy that all learning occurs in these four ways:

1. Learning occurs through involvement in an experience (Concrete Experience)

2. Learning occurs by watching, listening, reading, or reflecting (Reflective Learning)

3. Learning occurs when thinking (Abstract Conceptualization)

4. Learning occurs when doing (Active Experimentation)

Kolb observed that all people use these four processes when learning but some people engage in some of these processes more than others. Kolb proposed a learning theory called Two-Dimensional Learning in which he recommended that effective learning occurs when two of these four learning styles are combined in complimenting pairs. These suggested combinations of learning activities logically advocate for students to participate in careful thinking and abstract conceptualization after reflective learning activities. The combinations also recommend coupling experiential learning with both reflective learning activities and critical thinking activities which means more hands-on learning in the classroom. The Flexible-E model embraces Kolb's emphasis on the power of hands-on experiences in the classroom by combining hands-on experiences with all other learning activities where appropriate. The 5 E model recommends conducting hands-on exploration before explaining and elaborating on learning material. In contrast, the Flexible-E model recommends using hands-on exploration before, during, between, or after explaining and elaborating on unit content where appropriate.

Students get to experiment with concepts they learned in their reading!



(Guava Fruit)

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These students relate to their reading material with the Engineering Design Process as they develop their own ideas for how to design model earthquake-safe structures. An experience such as this must be done at the end of the unit because students must first learn basic concepts about structural bracing and earthquake mechanics. 

Its Been A Long time In The Making!

In the process of creating the STEMTaught curriculum many thousands of hours were spent in the classroom to test and observe how students and teachers responded to the hands-on material and continuous improvements were made to our methodologies. Direct feedback from and collaboration with hundreds of teachers and administrators resulted in the creation of a sophisticated learning platform that combines Kolb’s learning activities in effective ways. Multdisciplinary contributors including engineers, scientists, teachers, reading specialists, and education administrators have collaborated to design the STEMTaught learning environment. The STEMTaught learning material is the result of extensive university collaborations with subject matter experts of each individual NGSS topic. Considering Kolb’s learning activities and the Two-Dimensional learning philosophy carefully, a simple summary of its main message is as follows; Learning is most effective when reflective learning activities such as watching, listening, reading and reflecting are coupled with careful thinking, and when hands-on and experiential learning activities are woven throughout the learning process. This institutes the core value of STEMTaught's methodology. STEMTaught has a knack and a special talent for enabling and preparing teachers to increase the amount and the effectiveness of hands-on activities in their classrooms.


I see the logic! Directed hands-on is effective hands on!



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Something as simple as a taste of honey when learning about pollination and flowering plants is important for a child's learning. If a picture is worth a thousand words, an experience is worth a million. 

Learning is most effective when reflective learning activities such as watching, listening, reading and reflecting (Explain)are coupled with careful, original thinking (Elaborate), and when hands-on and experiential learning activities (Explore) are woven throughout the learning process.

Kids need to try stuff to know what it is. Like  You'll never know what I taste like till you try me.

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(Mountain Apple)

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