By Ryan Read
What is STEAM? Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics, one of the fastest growing trends in schools, along with STEM (science, technology, engineering and Mathematics).
For most schools, the use of STEAM seems to just be a basic integration of already established course work, but true integration goes deeper than that. STEAM allows students to dig deeper into their learning, find their passions, and discover innovation along the way. STEAM allows students to learn skills and acquire abilities for jobs that don’t exist yet, but will be the time they complete school.
Setting up STEAM in your classroom is about preparing students for the real world, where they’ll have careers to build. It’s about that self discovering and innovation that can propel students and even their teachers into new corners and roads of education.
So, how do you set up STEAM in your classroom? Here’s what I did, and also recommend to you.
Step 1: Find STEAM In Your Classroom
The first part is to look at the acronym of STEAM. I have students start by trying to find STEAM in their classrooms. Some students don’t know that a dry eraser marker is STEAM.
It was created using science and engineering, it makes art and it is a type of technology that does use basic math. It’s a great way for students to build on their understanding of what STEAM Is and how it influences our learning and daily lives.
#2: Collect Materials
One of the most important aspects of STEAM is building and there are so many ways you can get materials for students to build. An easy way to start is to bring marshmallows, gum drops, spaghetti noodles or toothpicks into the classroom.
I then use a simple action figure, or POP Funko collectible and tell students they have to first build a house to house the character.
After that, they have to rebuild their design and make a bridge that can hold the character for at least ten seconds. I have found that most structures using noodles or toothpicks usually fall apart in less than five seconds, but it’s an amazing lesson.
Most students get frustrated when their creations FAIL (first attempt in learning). One of the large pieces of Engineering in STEAM is learning from your mistakes and trying again.
Step #3: Bring Technology Into the Equation
The next step for me is bringing technology into the classroom to enhance STEAM lessons. Being an instructional technologist and using tech in my daily lessons, I love using iPads, Chromebooks, drones and more with my students. However, many classrooms don’t have the luxury or just have one device in their classrooms.
When it comes time for you to use the technology in STEAM, think low-tech first. For example, 3D printers are becoming more popular in schools. If you don’t have access to a 3D printer, use Perler Beads as an alternative. Perler Beads are small beads that can be assembled to make objects that look like pixel art. They are very cost effective and allow students to scaffold their designs as they build.
I’ve seen some truly amazing pieces be created by students in a matter of minutes, where they’re not only improving on their designs, but making larger and more complex objects. It’s a great way to use both art and technology together—soon students quickly start designing everything from emojis to 8-bit video game characters.
Step #4: Dabble in Coding
A large part of STEAM in classroom is coding. Coding is not a new concept in classrooms, in fact it’s been around since computer science became a required course in the 1980s. While there are many free programs from Hopscotch to Tickle, many students lean towards using LEGOS to learning coding.
Using LEGOs to build structures teaches students basic coding skills, while learning about engineer designs, creating artistic structures, telling stories and innovating. You can scaffold on the building idea mentioned earlier with LEGOS, building bridges and that can hold heavy objects and even tell stories in the process, just like coding.
The best piece of advice I have to bring STEAM into your classroom: what you have. Using STEAM in your classrooms doesn’t have to be a large drawn out process and you don’t need to have all the latest and greatest tech tools.
Start small, find the STEAM in your classroom and when you do, you will be able to build from it. Try a few of the suggestions I have given you in this post and see what magic you can create with your students or the magic your students will create themselves with STEAM.