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STEAM or STEM? Don't forget Art in your STEM curriculum!

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What is STEAM?

No, this is not a post about water in the gaseous state! STEAM is an acronym which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics.

You are probably familiar with STEM and how the integration of science, engineering, technology and math has become an important aspect of education. Many people feel that the arts has equal importance and should therefore be integrated into STEM education.

If you need convincing consider Leonardo Da Vinci, one of the greatest minds of all time. He was an artist who created masterpieces like the Mona Lisa; a scientist who studied anatomy; a mathematician who drew amazingly accurate maps and an engineer who conceptualized flying machines. He was able to take skills and knowledge from one area and use them to better his ideas in another. A STEAM curriculum aims to do just this.

Arts education is a key to creativity, and creativity spurs innovation

Studying the arts teaches students to be creative and to use different approaches to solving problems. Engineering design is an integral part of the NGSS framework, and in order to design you need to be creative.

A STEAM curriculum allows every student to be engaged with subjects across the curriculum

In a traditional curriculum subjects are pigeon-holed. This means that some students are reluctant to engage with certain subjects as they, for one reason or another, think that these are not for them. For example, a student who does not enjoy art may engage with choosing materials in an engineering context or someone who normally shies away from science may learn more about chemistry when taught through the context of cooking. The benefits of using a STEAM curriculum is that students are encouraged to connect with subjects in new and engaging ways.

Providing students with the skills they need for a successful future

The NGSS contains many cross-cutting concepts that span science and engineering. However, there are many that span right across a STEAM curriculum. Examples include problem solving, critical thinking, working in a team, communication skills and self-evaluation.

Bringing reality into the classroom

STEAM allows students to see the links between different subjects, just as they do in the real world.

What subject do you think of when you see a painting?

Art, or more specifically fine art, is what immediately springs to mind. However, every aspect of STEAM was used in the creation of this painting.

The artist had to mix his paints using a knowledge of chemistry. He worked out perspective using math. The tools and canvas he used to paint were designed using technology and engineering skills.

So, many educators argue that just as the real world isn't divided up into subjects, neither should the school curriculum.

Integration is the key

This is easier said than done! Re-designing a whole school curriculum into one that it fully integrated takes a lot of time and effort. However, there are some aspects of STEAM that all teachers from kindergarten to high school can take and apply in their own classroom.

How you can use STEAM principles in your classroom

A large part of the STEAM curriculum is using hands-on activities to allow students to explore the world around them. SciTT Kits are designed to do just that. Let's take a look at a couple of examples of how SciTT Kits can be used in a STEAM approach.

Broken Rainbow

In this activity kindergarten students view light as it passes through spectrum glasses and prisms and learn that white light is made up of a spectrum of different colors.

Science: Prisms, like raindrops, can break up white light into a spectrum of colors. This is how rainbows are formed.

Technology: What materials can be used to make rainbows?

Engineering: How can we use these materials to make a rainbow-making window ornament?

Art: What happens when we mix colored light? Is it the same as mixing colored paints? How do different colors make you feel?

Math: What shape is a prism? Do any other 3D shapes also make rainbows?

Bodies in space

In this activity students build a model of the solar system.

Science: The names of the planets in the solar system, their sizes and distances from each other.

Technology: What other objects could we use to model the solar system?

Engineering: What problems do we face when exploring other planets in the solar system? Why is this?

Art: Can you draw a picture to show what it would be like on another planet?

Math: Making measurements, calculating scale, ratios.

So, what do you think? Are you going to make your classroom more STEAM-powered?

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