STEAM – Get on Top!

STEAM is an extension of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths). The A is for Arts. The inclusion of the latter is a logical step, as the others are very often linked to design, aesthetics and human usability.  There is a world-wide drive to promote the value of the Arts as essential to using the brain effectively; they have suffered over the years at the hands of a busy curriculum, and increased external pressure for measurable achievements. This website argues that, without the inclusion of the Arts, students are not given the opportunity to use their whole brain.

There are lots of explanations and links on this website, mainly aimed at teachers, but there are good videos of kids showing what they do.

In my own little way, as a bit of a positive disruptor, I decided to combine as many of the STEAM topics into one curriculum area as possible. We needed to look at electronics as the final part of our Science programme, so following up on a hint by another teacher about making quiz boards, I set my students off on a mission:

  • Canvas other teachers about what their classes have been learning about;
  • Create some questions related to the learning;
  • Design an attractive quiz centre with which students will want to engage;
  • Draw your circuit diagrams;
  • Build your interactive quiz.

This took quite a few lessons on top of the Science/Tech learning we’d already engaged in, but every time, there was focussed, productive group work. Students were in 3s or 4s; one would be writing questions, one or two figuring out the electronics and one designing the product. Students who can sometimes stand back from group work, wanted to be involved and because there was so much to do, in various disciplines, there was something everyone could do well.

We had electronic quizzes about spelling, electricity, division, problem solving, animals, 3D shapes, poetry and circuits. Most students learnt how to trouble shoot circuits that didn’t work, systematically working through each element to identify faults. This promoted their knowledge so much more than creating text-book circuits. They were motivated through this sometimes arduous task, by wanting their art to work!

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By taking our learning about circuits to the Arts level and creating interactive works we could share with other classes, my students had a real-world experience of knowledge-to-design-to-manufacture-to-implementation.

Last term, my students also made ‘Explain Everything’ lessons about the aspect of Maths learning they were most confident in, and shared these with others. In the past, I’ve found students to be fully engaged when arts are integrated into Maths and Science, for example looking at and creating Islamic art, when studying shape and space. I have every intention of stepping up my incorporation of Arts into STEM in the future, because of first hand evidence of enhanced learning and retainment.

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About vanessa hiser

Primary and Secondary Educator; Academic Psychologist; Counsellor; mother; netballer; lifelong learner.
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