Educators are increasingly of the belief that focusing on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) alone overlooks several important components that parents, and employers believe are necessary to succeed in the present as well as quickly evolving future. This has resulted in the STEM to STEAM movement that is popularly viewed as a positive step towards meeting the needs of 21st century economic demands.
What is STEAM?
Simply put, STEAM is an educational approach that relies not only on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math for learning but also the Arts as an access point for guiding inquiry, dialogue and critical thinking in students. It is a holistic approached which helps hone students into taking calculated risks, being more open to collaboration, adopting a problem-solving approach, engaging in experiential learning and working creatively.
Georgette Yakman, the founding researcher and creator of STEAM, describes it as “science and technology interpreted through engineering and the arts, all based in mathematical elements.”
The STEM vs. STEAM approach
Traditionally, schools that have been able to successfully introduce STEM programs into their curriculum have received significant appreciation. It was designed to be a program that integrates and applies the knowledge of math and science to solve real world challenges. Some important components schools focused on and implemented were
- Providing real-world context
- Using the engineering design process to solve problems
- Encouraging hands-on exploration within each discipline of STEM
- Use of technology to support learning
- Co-curricular and extra-curricular activities to promote STEM
- Focus on 21st century skills such as teamwork, critical thinking and communication
While students within STEM programs are able to exploit experiential learning opportunities, they are limited only to the four disciplines that fall under it. In today’s day and age, there is a dire need of talent that is able to go beyond the basic understanding of these areas, relying on the keen sense of application, creation and ingenuity.
History gives us the best example of STEAM in action. Leonardo da Vinci, creator of the famous Mona Lisa painting, was also a renowned inventor, engineer and scientist, and conceptualized the helicopter and the battle tank.
STEAM allows educators to retain the benefits of STEM and add the missing link – the arts. STEAM allows students to connect their learning with practices in arts, design principles and other elements to benefit from a variety of learning tools that are now put at their disposal. Including arts into the bag promotes further collaboration across all disciplines.
How can Educators Adopt STEAM Based Learning?
For schools to be able to effectively incorporate a STEAM based curriculum, they need to take into consideration a few of the following factors –
- A cross-section of teachers in every team that facilitate collaborative planning
- Training and professional development of the entire staff in the principles and practices of STEAM-based learning
- Designing of seamless lesson implementation strategies and processes
Some educators are still skeptical about including the arts into a tried, tested combination of STEM. However, others argue that STEAM is about sparking the imagination of students and helping them innovatively approach STEM projects in a hands-on manner. The core objective of this approach is to apply creative thinking and design skills into STEM projects in a way that students can come up a variety of ways to use STEM skills effectively well into their adulthood.