We have all heard of STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Great things are happening to support STEM activities all the way from the federal government down to the classroom teacher and students doing it every day. Another major focus has been to add the arts to STEM, thereby creating STEAM! This can include language arts as well as the fine arts rounding out STEM and adding a little proverbial right brain to the mix. The combination is a powerful force capable of giving our students the opportunities and experiences they’ll need to be successful communicators, innovators, and entrepreneurs.
What does a STEAM student look like?
These students are solving real world problems. They are working together using interdisciplinary communication and collaboration. They are using their combined strengths to build and solve complex issues. Students are stretching their learning as well as those around them, not excluding the teachers. They are presenting and selling their ideas to their communities on a local and global scale. They are making a difference!
What does a STEAM classroom look like?
While there is not a set “look” for a STEAM classroom, upon first take, one might find a mess of things strewn about and chaos abounding. It may look like a playground with kids tinkering, laughing, and working with others. A deeper dive will show students not only have access to physical resources to be able to solve their tasks and challenges but also a change in mindset and how they best learn. Some STEAM classrooms will have access to makerspace equipment such as 3D printers, CNC routers, laser cutters, vinyl cutters, sewing machines, and much more. They may also have access to other technologies such as robotics equipment, computers, coding platforms, and other items along these lines. They’ll also have access to the outside world and networks of people to bounce ideas off of and share their challenges.
In a STEAM classroom, teachers will also be collaborating more. STEAM weaves together many content areas and teachers work together to find ways to tie their curricula to the real world.
How to start?
There are already many activities associated with STEM that teachers and students can get involved in right away. There are also programs and activities sponsored by ESU 10 that schools can participate in throughout the year such as Science Olympiad, HAL, Invention Convention, Instructional Materials, and CTE to name a few.
I’d also suggest wandering outside the box and working directly with the Language Arts teachers and Fine Arts teachers to find creative and engaging activities where students can apply STEAM learning. The theater department and art room would be great places to start. What could these students do if they are allowed to use the “shop” tools or the computer lab? Capitalizing on students’ strengths in math, science, or engineering could be beneficial as you build your theater set. Have design students work with app programmers to make their user interface friendly and engaging. ELA students could help bring projects to the 21st-century marketplace with websites, social media, or other avenues. There are so many possibilities!
STEAM provides a platform for students to be creative collaborators, innovators, digital learners, and entrepreneurs when they leave high school. It gives them the opportunities to meet others with the same passions they have and work together to solve the problems of the next generations. Schools can get started any time with the resources they currently have. It’s really about creatively using the resources already available and just having an interdisciplinary mindset and the passion for making the connections needed to facilitate learning opportunities for our students.