STEAM projects that are great to encourage learning in young children


Using STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Art and Math) learning techniques promotes the development of vocabulary, critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, and reflection in children as young as three years old. Elementary school STEAM integrations are particularly effective when there are sincere relationships made between teachers and students as well as among participating parents and caregivers. This long-term buy-in and engagement of students comes from spending time to get to know and understand their interests, talents, abilities, and needs. Higher-quality project work is inevitably produced when students’ ideas are engaged, and their excitement is increased using a STEAM lens.

If you’ve been reading this blog over the months, you know we’ve laid out various ways in which STEAM learning techniques can aid creativity and lateral thinking to enable students to view the world around them from different perspectives. STEAM learning techniques can be spotted from its encouragement of questioning, connecting new information to past knowledge, acquiring, and evaluating data, and communicating conclusions and ideas clearly and simply.

Much as we’d like it to be, STEAM isn’t mainstream among parents and caregivers, particularly of young women from 6-16. It’s often challenging to discover STEAM projects for kids that the typical parent or teacher can manage. We’ve rounded up a few interesting use cases that will serve as inspiration.

STEAMing with projects: Using kid-centered projects in the classroom is one simple way to include STEAM into your curriculum. In a class of 4- and 5-year-olds, learning about seeds and plant development sparked their scientific curiosity. The teacher (this can also be a group of parent volunteers) worked with the class to create, design, plant, and maintain a class garden to complement the kids’ interests. The kids worked together to research various plants and decide which ones to include in their garden over the course of several weeks. The students then proceeded to take care of their plants, monitor their growth, and finally share their harvest of herbs, veggies, and flowers with other students at the school. In this type of project (of which we found several examples across Canada and the US), the children’s experiences incorporated visual arts, science content, and STEAM processes like problem-solving, design, planning, measuring, and observing.

STEAMing with problems: Consider using the main issues that are being discussed in the classroom to incorporate STEAM throughout the day. Typical problems that children might have can be used to create a STEAM learning experience. Here’s one example: in an elementary school class, children were encouraged to debate whether outdoor play time was unfair because certain kids weren’t given the chance to use the swings. The teacher urged the students to consider several approaches to this issue. The children discussed the positive and negative perspectives and then decided as a group on the strategy that would work best. This was a STEAM experience because kids had to use logic to choose answers and think critically about those ideas to come up with a general plan for using the swings. It is also a great example of democracy at play! Once the decision was made, the children followed through since they all felt heard, and part of the process.

STEAMing with play: STEAM experiences are often best delivered through play. One example involves a 4-year-olds in a class investigating various materials in the science center. A water and sand table, as well as a variety of other materials (including salt, sugar, and wood shavings), were available for research. The kids were naturally curious to see how the various materials behaved in the water; some of the objects immediately sank, some floated, and some briefly appeared to float before slowly sinking. The teacher, parent volunteers, and kids worked together to make a chart to record which materials floated and which ones sank. In this case, STEAM learning was supported through the provision of resources for the science center to encourage imaginative learning.

STEAM activities can take many forms, all of which are beneficial for young children, and can serve as a gateway to a lifetime of relevant and meaningful learning for both students and teachers, encouraging collaboration, idea exploration, and divergent problem-solving.

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