STEM has been an integral part of education for nearly a decade. The letters STEM stand for science, technology, engineering, and math. These subject areas are part of the fastest growing career fields in the world, and educational leaders have wisely chosen to make these topics core areas of study in order to prepare students for the future. Recently there has been a push to expand the focus of learning to STEAM education. What does the “A” stand for? Arts!
While the intent of STEM curriculums was never to push arts out of schools, that is what has happened in too many cases. Resources can only be spread so far, and schools, especially at the secondary level, have shifted their focus and funds towards STEM courses. Returning arts to the curriculum, especially in STEM schools, can help nurture learning and promote problem solving skills.
The push to move towards STEAM has been championed by John Maeda, the past president of the Rhode Island School of Design. When he delivered the keynote address at the Concordia University Governor Victor Atiyeh Leadership in Education Awards in 2016, he made the case for STEAM education. Maeda argues that today’s students are training for jobs that have not been created yet. The ability to be creative and innovative is key.
“The arts bring an important humanistic creativity to science and technology. Art impacts our lives and the economy, playing a critical role in the start-up ecosystem.”
Proponents of STEAM education are not arguing for more stand alone classes related to the arts. The idea is to weave art and design skills into the core curriculum. Teachers will use new tools to engage their students in the creative process which connects with their other subjects. This increased engagement will help students understand processes better and increase their interest in subject areas that can be seen as uninteresting. Adding the “A” to instruction will help recruit more students to the world of STEM.
How to Incorporate STEAM into the Classroom
Moving towards STEAM will require a paradigm shift. Emphasis has to be moved away from standardized tests and redistributed. The learning process should be as valued as the results. Students should be encouraged try different ideas, test ideas out, and problem solve in a way that is applicable to real life. Here are some ideas for ways to incorporate STEAM education and activities in the classroom:
Using a variety of craft supplies to build is an excellent way for students to develop their math and problem solving skills. Choose from pre-made kits for younger kids. Older students can use a variety of products, like dowel rods and clay, to design and build their own creations.
Growing anything…from crystals to plants…offer students wonderful opportunities to learn how to create something. They can test variables to see what makes something grow faster or slower. An activity like this spider balls kit allows students to adjust the amount of water to see how it affects growth. They can have fun while learning!
Make and Observe:
There are many fun ways to make and observe various processes while crafting. Dyes offer ways to see and understand how different items interact. For example, use glue to add designs to a surface, then spray dye onto the project. What happens? Add drops of dye to oil, water, and wax to see what happens. Students will have fun while learning.
Science and Art:
There are countless ways to use art to teach kids science. Science kits make it easy to incorporate the fun of creating with the joy of learning. Products like this 10 piece rainbow worms kit teach the basic application of polymer science while letting kids be creative.
Art and Math:
Very young children can learn shapes by creating mosaic art. Older students can use shapes to build, design, and solve problems. Hands on activities make concepts like geometry and measurement easier to understand.
Kids can learn how things move by building. A rubber band powered airplane is a good beginner project. Once students have mastered the basics of “flying” they can go on to problem solve and create a new and improved version of their glider. This kind of learning and creating is something that will help them throughout their lives.
STEAM is definitely gaining steam in the world of education. Do yourself and your learners a favor by adding art to your classroom.
If you’re an educator, you might also enjoy our article on the Top Apps for Teachers that encourage creativity.