If you are an educator you know how important the teaching of STEM subjects — Science, Technology, Engineering and Math — has become in recent years. In 2010, President Barack Obama made it a priority to increase the number of students and teachers who are proficient in STEM subjects with the Obama administration noting that:
“All young people should be prepared to think deeply and to think well so that they have the chance to become the innovators, educators, researchers, and leaders who can solve the most pressing challenges facing our nation and our world, both today and tomorrow. But, right now, not enough of our youth have access to quality STEM learning opportunities and too few students see these disciplines as springboards for their careers.”
Even more recently the arts were added to STEM, creating STEAM, helping to further engage students who may not be naturally drawn to the STEM fields but who are better able to learn these subjects through the arts. With a national focus on increasing the number of professionals entering STEAM fields, teachers are looking for new ways to introduce STEAM in the classroom and ignite a passion among students for these important subjects.
Teaching STEAM in the Classroom
This emphasis on STEAM has led many forward thinking teachers and schools to implement creative strategies for enhancing their curriculum’s around science, technology, engineering, art and math. Here are a few examples:
In Coney Island, New York, a group of teachers have developed a plan to help “transform education in their neighborhood.” Their plan relies heavily on STEAM subjects and aims to create a “marine science pipeline that helps guide students all the way from the first day of elementary school through college or into a career,” according to Chalkbeat. In order to accomplish this, students in the district’s elementary school are exposed to a “science heavy curriculum” including basic coding. And teachers are using Lego robotics to help students develop critical thinking skills — skills that are paramount in STEAM careers. In one fourth-grade classroom for example, “a group of fourth-grade students stared intently at their computer screens, trying to program a spinning top made of Legos. One-by-one they watched their projects come to life.”
The school’s Lego lab even features an expansive model of Coney Island built entirely out of Legos.
The Lego educational approach to STEAM is growing in popularity, as it is able to “stimulate learning by asking students to solve challenges that they can relate to,” according to Lego. This learning by doing approach is attractive to children across a wide age range, from pre-school all the way through to middle and high school.
In Florida the Duval school board is set to vote on a plan that would recommend spending $187,700 to implement Lego education across 50 schools. The Lego robotics teams are currently operating in 36 Duval schools and Mason Davis, the assistant superintendent hopes to eventually have Legos in 161 Duval public schools. “He said the mostly extracurricular activity will spark students’ engagement in technology fields and hopefully get them more involved in math, science and computers in class,” according to the Florida Times Union.
Looking to Nature
In Philadelphia, the Chester A. Arthur School, a K-8 public school, is building “the first of its kind outdoor schoolyard for teaching” known as the STEM schoolyard, according to the Philly Voice. This unique outdoor learning space will include:
“two outdoor classrooms, a rain and pump garden, a climbing and physics instruction area, raised garden beds, a 50-meter track and sundial, a parking lot surrounded by trees and “sense walls” intended to help the learning experience for children with disabilities.
These features will be broken up into four “labs” – a “habitat lab” geared toward learning about plant and animal life, a “systems lab” focused on hydrology, ecology and stormwater management, a “motion lab” intended to teach proportions, mathematics, human movement and celestial bodies; and an “energy lab” to educate about food and waste, with areas for seat spouting, soil building and composing from school waste streams.”
The idea behind the creation of the new schoolyard is to enhance the teaching and learning of STEM subjects and encourage students’ interest in these areas through hands on learning. Students will now be able to witness and experiment in real life with the concepts they are learning through traditional instruction and textbook reading.
In Arlington Heights, IL students are exposed to STEAM subjects starting in kindergarten. The STEAM curriculum in the school district is designed to build upon itself each year with concepts getting more complex as a student ages so that by the time they are in middle school they are well positioned in terms of their STEAM knowledge. One example of how teachers in the district are implementing STEAM in the lower grade levels is at the St. Peter Lutheran School, where first graders are building UV safe model playgrounds — a project that requires both principles of physics and engineering. “The model playgrounds were designed with the goal of establishing shady spaces that if built to a human-scale, would provide a safe place for children to escape the summer heat and UV rays,” St. Peter first- and second-grade teacher Deb Scott said in a Chicago Tribune article.
Teachers and educators are extremely important in the national effort to bring STEAM to life in the classroom and increase the number of students entering STEAM fields. As President Barack Obama said,
“The quality of math and science teachers is the most important single factor influencing whether students will succeed or fail in science, technology, engineering and math. Passionate educators with issue expertise can make all the difference, enabling hands-on learning that truly engages students—including girls and underrepresented minorities—and preparing them to tackle the grand challenges of the 21st century such as increasing energy independence, improving people’s health, protecting the environment, and strengthening national security.”
If you are ready to make a difference in the lives of your students and learn new compelling methods and effective strategies for teaching STEAM in the classroom, consider a Master of Education Degree with a concentration in STEAM from the University of San Diego. We offer a 100% online degree that was designed specifically for working professionals and accepts students on a rolling basis in the Spring, Summer and Fall. If you would like to learn more about our program speak with an admissions advisor.