2 key principles for adding STEAM learning to your child’s curriculum
For young children, inquiry-based education can cut barriers to learning like little else. In this arena, STEAM (science technology engineering ART and math) acquires greater relevance. The use of active learning techniques in STEAM promotes the development of vocabulary, critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, and reflection. By giving kids the chance to view the world through the lens of STEAM, children as young as 3 are given the chance to tackle problems in fresh and unique ways.
STEAM activities can also give tweens and teenagers the opportunities and adventure they may seek when they are investigating life’s great secrets and it’s meaning, seeking social approval, and looking for possibilities. They will have to cultivate the necessary rigor, relevance, and responsiveness to compete at global scale in the 2020s and beyond.
Practitioners and academics are starting to realize that disciplinary boundaries in learning environments need to be broken down in favor of more holistic approaches. Drawing on practices and perspectives from multiple disciplines can support learning and open up explorations into different future journeys for students. Based on young people’s increasing interest in art, design, and creation as well as the variety of ways these activities can be expressed, STEAM education has been increased in the mainstream as a way to reinvent science education.
If your children’s educational environment is foraying into STEAM, here are 2 key principles in designing successful STEAM experiences for you to know
Make STEAM easy and relevant for students: Tweens andTeens want to be valued, respected, and heard by the teachers, mentors, and other influential grown-ups in their lives. You will find entrance points for STEAM activities are inclusive for students of all abilities. Allow students as much choice as possible. Encourage them to select a subtopic within the broader topic that is being covered in the classroom. More classrooms are now enabling students to choose if they want to work alone, in pairs, or in small groups. With the amount of technology available and easy research abilities, children can be encouraged to explore knowledge independently, and to dive deep and creatively into subjects. Introducing current world contexts and cases is an excellent way to step up the interest and motivation that students will bring to a curriculum. This way of creating relevance and buy-in between what students are learning and real world situations is invaluable.
Let empathy drive your STEAM engine: As early as preschool, socialization for children is key. Between the ages of 6-16, learning in a culture of empathy and receptiveness is vital.By actively immersing middle school children in opportunities for social improvement, teachers, parents, and care-givers of the young people in our lives can prepare them for the rapid pace of change that today’s world presents. STEAM learning fosters diversity, social justice, and emotional intelligence.
The core concept of STEAM learning lies in this one simple truth: Teach your children to think like a scientist, and create like an artist. Persistent inquisitiveness will become a way of living rather than simply a way of learning – and that’s when we’ll know we’ve done our job as role models in our children’s lives!
It can also be personal. Middle school STEAM integrations are more effective when there are sincere relationships made between teachers and students. With middle school children, taking the time to get to know and understand their interests, talents, abilities, and needs pays off in the long run with their buy-in and engagement. Inevitably, engaging students’ ideas and increasing their enthusiasm in STEAM-related learning activities results in higher-quality project work.
STEAM fields provide complementary perspectives on the world. They also promote similar processes for learning, such as asking questions, making connections with prior knowledge, gathering and analyzing data, and communicating ideas.
Projects in STEAM that can be useful for young children to improve their learning
STEAMing with projects: One method for integrating STEAM in your classroom is through child-centered projects.
A class of 4- and 5-year-olds was particularly interested in learning about seeds and plant growth. To support the children’s interests, the teacher proposed the class to plan, design, plant, and take care of a class garden. Over the course of several weeks, the children researched plants and worked together to choose what to plant in their garden.
The children cared for their plants; measured and recorded the plants’ growth; and shared their crops of herbs, vegetables, and flowers with others in the school. The children’s experiences in this project integrated visual arts; science content; and the STEAM processes of problem exploration, design, planning, measuring, and recording observations.
STEAMing with problems: To infuse STEAM throughout the day, consider making use of the common problems in your classroom. Problems that children experience can be used to create a STEAM experience.
In a class the children were struggling with the problem that outdoor playtime wasn’t fair because some children did not have opportunities to use the swings. The teacher encouraged the children to explore various solutions to this problem. The children discussed options and decided as a group on the strategy that would work best. This was a STEAM experience because children had to use reasoning to decide on solutions and reflect on those solutions to settle on an overall strategy for the use of the swings.
STEAMing with play: This one shows the STEAM experiences that can emerge from play. In a class, a 4 year old had been exploring different materials in the science center. The teacher had set out a variety of materials and a water and sand table for exploration. The children naturally became intrigued with exploring how the different materials responded to being placed in the water, some items sank quickly, some floated, and some appeared to float for a brief time before slowly sinking. The children even collaborated with the teacher to create a chart to note which materials floated and which sank.
In this case, the teacher supported STEAM learning through the materials she placed in the science center to inspire playful learning. This type of experience will often take off in new directions as children build their understandings and extend the experience.
It is generally agreed that the abilities of critical thinking, problem-solving, teamwork, and flexibility have an equal, if not a greater role in determining a student’s success than academic abilities. It is more vital than ever for us as educators to discover genuine and interesting methods to engage and challenge students, especially in light of the rising realization that skills are essential to the long-term success of today’s kids.
STEAM activities can take many forms, all of which are beneficial for young children. They can be a gateway to relevant and meaningful learning for both students and teachers, by encouraging collaboration, idea exploration, and divergent problem-solving.
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