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Let’s talk about STEAM!

Thursday, June 9, 2016 -- Ashlee Tatum-Eckley

STEAM . . . STEM . . . what’s the difference? And where did that “A” come from? For fans of science and math, as well as lovers of the arts, STEAM education is a beautiful combination of the two. Traditionally, STEM education has included science, technology, engineering, and math. STEAM is an evolution of that concept that blends the arts into the equation. In an effort to authentically infuse arts into STEM education, proponents of STEAM argue that “art informs science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and vice versa.” 

Check out these four ways to integrate STEAM in your classroom:

Think Cross-Curricular-ly

Is that a real word? Well, you know what I mean. One way to achieve a natural coming together of the sciences and arts is through cross-curricular activities. Asking your students to build, draw, and physically create what they’re learning about is a great way to implement this concept. Not only does this allow students to visualize a topic through artistic expression, but it helps them engage in deeper levels of comprehension by applying these concepts in new ways. One of my favorite projects as a kid was building a topographical map of the United States. While this was technically a social studies lesson, the integration of science, math, and art elevated my understanding and created a memorable experience! Education.com published a similar how-to guide using salt dough. It makes me want to try out the project again with my nieces and nephews.

Blur the (Subject) Lines

STEAM implementation is all about creativity. Think about how you can get students learning traditional STEM subjects in new and different ways that also integrate the arts. Alternatively, flip it! Think about how you can integrate STEM into art projects. Either way, the goal is to get students thinking about things from a new perspective—creatively blending subject areas like art, music, design, and creative expression with science, math, technology, and engineering.

Collaborate in Planning

There is nothing like the power of multiple minds on a project. Utilize your peers to co-plan innovative ways in which you can integrate STEAM concepts into your lessons. And, when the inevitable list of materials required to complete these projects begins to build, you now have a team of educators to help you divide and conquer, ensuring that students have unique learning experiences without extensive pre-planning. Co-planning not only helps you ensure that you’re effectively meeting the needs of all of your students, but it gives you an outlet to brainstorm ideas, work through details, and test concepts.

Encourage Exploration

For older students, career planning is a good first step in determining how to integrate STEAM subjects. Architecture is a perfect example of a career that beautifully integrates all aspects of STEAM. Students not only need to know how to execute with precision and understand how pieces come together, but they also need to explore their creativity and imaginations—envisioning what could be possible and then mapping out exactly how to create it. Explore this and other possible careers through job shadowing opportunities or job fairs. For younger students, a career day could be the first step in opening minds to possible STEAM careers.

Looking for solutions to help you bridge different topics and cross the STEM/STEAM divide? Technology can be a powerful tool to make connections across disciplines and enable your students to pursue individual interests. Check out Edmentum’s online courses from Plato Courseware, including an extensive library of core and elective offerings!