STEAM is a modern educational approach that exposes students to diverse fields and their interconnectedness, while encouraging deep thinking and meaningful research. The acronym “STEAM” stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics. The “A” (Arts—which include liberal arts, language arts, music, design thinking, and fine arts) is a relatively new and welcome addition that enhances the completeness of the STEM approach.
This post will answer all your fundamental questions about STEAM education. We’ll explain what the STEAM model looks like, the benefits of STEAM education, and how you can apply it in the classroom with the resources you have available.
What is the STEAM model?
The STEAM model suggests organising each project following the 6 steps below:
Focus: In this first step, select a question to answer or a problem to solve, making sure it’s clear how it relates to one or more STEAM topics.
Detail: Now students dive deeper into the problem, trying to identify the elements that contribute to it and possible correlations to other areas.
Discovery: Students scrutinise already existing solutions to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Teachers address any skill or knowledge gaps so that students can proceed with the project on their own.
Application: After analysing the current solutions, students begin to fathom their own solutions using the skills, knowledge, and processes they learned during the discovery phase. What matters here the most is not whether the students reach the right conclusion or create a perfectly functional object, but rather how creative they were in their approach.
Presentation: The students present their solution, explaining how they got there and their perspective on the problem they had to solve. During this stage, they learn how to receive and give feedback.
What are the benefits of STEAM education?
STEAM education is quickly replacing traditional linear learning. If your school is yet to embrace STEAM, perhaps the following benefits will convince you of the importance of this novel learning approach.
1. Experiential learning
STEAM education promotes experiential learning through active exploration, inquiry and hands-on practice. When students learn by doing, they are more immersed in the process and are able to retain more information. That’s why experiential learning is vastly more effective than passive learning. The fact that learning takes place through collaborative assignments and involves multi-disciplinary research further increases the educational value of STEAM.
2. Collaboration and teamwork
During STEAM projects, students work together to brainstorm solutions and filtrate different perspectives. They also delegate responsibilities and tasks according to skills and aptitudes. Everyone contributes with what they know best, or challenge themselves in new roles. For example, a more timid team member might be encouraged to do the project presentation.
Alongside collaboration, students improve related skills like communication, active listening, and even empathy. In reality, a STEAM project is a micro version of the workplace. Students learn to work as a part of a team, maximize resources, and appreciate all different skills and personality traits. It is crucial that roles must be explicitly taught and communication strategies modelled for teams to grow.
3. Problem-solving and critical thinking
STEAM education encourages independent problem-solving and engenders critical thinking. With minimum guidance from their teacher, students have to give answers to multi-layered questions and problems. The key is that the main objective isn’t to find the perfect solution but to explore the issue from different angles and alternatives.
In the long term, students overcome their fear of failure and enjoy the process of discovering and experimenting. STEAM teaches them that mistakes are not the end. They’re opportunities to learn, reframe their thinking, and improve. The key here is you need to talk about and model how failure can be built on, ergo failing forward.
STEAM projects introduce students to the creative process, from ideation and mind mapping to produce. With the focus shifting from the end result to the process followed, there’s room for creative and lateral thinking to blossom.
5. Future preparedness
Employment in STEM occupations is not only expected to rise, but it will also be significantly more profitable compared to non-stem related jobs. STEAM education prepares students for the future workplace by giving them access to technical knowledge while also exploring how art fits in the picture. For example, mobile apps are primarily tech products. But the user interface, including the graphics, the text, and navigation buttons, are the result of artistic work, which significantly affects the quality of the product and the user experience.
It’s not just the technical skills that STEAM helps improve. As technology will continue to undertake tedious tasks and facilitate work processes, creativity, innovation and decision making will always depend on humans. Teamwork will also be of the essence, and so will the ability to communicate effectively. STEAM education helps students unleash their creativity, work in teams, and develop critical thinking so that they can rise up to this challenge.
How can I apply STEAM education in my classroom?
Organising STEAM projects is actually not that complicated, nor does it have to be expensive. You can implement the STEAM model with the resources you already have, organising small projects in the class. A few key points to remember when developing your first STEAM project are:
- The purpose of STEAM education is to stimulate interest and increase knowledge around all core disciplines. Therefore, try to include as many as possible in your projects, following the 6 steps recommended.
- It’s important that the projects appeal to everybody and that everyone can participate regardless of their tech-savviness. You can assign the artistic student as the head of marketing and have them create the logo and product pitch script. The point is you need to work with the students to find their strengths and passions and build their learning around those.
- Be creative in the way you use materials and everyday objects. Choose resources that can be reused and combine well with other materials. From cardboard all the way up to 3D digital designs.
- Prefer to work on projects that pertain to current issues and real-life problems, allow your students the choice of projects.
- Organising a presentation in front of the whole school. This will give a higher sense of purpose in the students and emphasise the importance of the project. Most importantly, it will increase interest and awareness around STEAM education. Lunchtime clubs are a great way to build interest and integrate STEAM into student culture.
It’s no exaggeration to say that STEAM is the educational approach of the future. The world keeps moving forward at a rapid pace. Everything changes, from workplace culture to technology and climate status. The weight of preparing the next generation for the future lies on our shoulders, too. Although not everyone can be at the forefront of innovation or science, all students should familiarise themselves with the processes and tools that lead to change and advancement.
Working Together We Can Build Better Brains!