Over the past several years, there’s been a lot of talk about STEAM. But, what exactly is STEAM? The acronym can be described as science and technology, integrated with mathematics, explained using engineering and the arts.
Well, what exactly does that mean? STEAM is an instructional method of teaching by utilizing science, technology, math engineering and the arts in order to nurture critical thinking, help students understand and retain knowledge, and foster their ability to problem solve creatively. STEAM gives teachers an authentic blueprint for teaching that is practical and caters to students’ knowledge and experiences.
STEAM has shown increasing success in classrooms, helping students learn by discovery, embrace creative problem-solving, and engage with subject matter through real-life contexts.
STEAM vs. STEM
STEM, the curriculum based on integrating science, technology, engineering and mathematics has gained tremendous popularity, especially with the boom of technological advances and opportunities over the past few decades. This is sound logic for our future generations who should be well-equipped to hold jobs in these burgeoning fields.
However, implementing STEM alone overlooks important advantages and benefits that help children develop the critical skills and innovation needed for a fast-moving society. STEAM focuses on more experimental learning possibilities by integrating art into STEM frameworks. Basically, STEAM is an amped up version of STEM. So, while STEM does offer a great deal of possibilities through experiential learning, STEAM allows students to combine and unite these practices with artistic elements, design principles and creative collaboration and problem solving. STEAM makes room for curiosity, exploration and discovery.
How to STEAM
Introducing STEAM may certainly be a new experience for both teachers and students, but with a little practice, both will reap the benefits of an entirely new creative educational structure. As we previously discussed, crucial aspects implementing a STEAM curriculum is integrating art – whether it be physical, literary, musical, etc. – and teaching through authentic experiences. Here’s some tips teachers should consider when introducing STEAM to your classrooms:
1. Explore & discover
STEAM allows teachers and students to explore a wide range of subjects and ideas. For example, you may want to explore a 1950’s blues music score, or the techniques behind Surrealism during the Spanish Civil War. Your students should obtain as much information about their subjects as possible, including creating their own musical score or mimicking Dali’s methods. They can always choose the most relevant sections to narrow and focus on at a later time.
Now that your students have explored the subject or idea and discovered its history, functionalities and usage, you may experiment with integrating with a science, technology, or mathematical topic. For instance, if your fourth graders were learning about geometric shapes, you might want to explore, discover and integrate the works of Wassily Kandinsky or similar artists into your lesson plan. Your students have now experienced a natural connection between art and mathematics, as well as an organic understanding of the functionality, process and rationale being addressed.
Now that your students have learned their STEAM lesson, the next step is to create. Not only with this solidify and help to retain the topics, but it’s simply FUN! Try it for yourself. You’ll be surprised at how engaged and receptive your students are to this incorporative approach to education.
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