What is STEAM? Are STEM activities just about robotics and computing?
How do we introduce Engineering into the science class? What learning methodologies should teachers use to introduce STEAM?
These are only a few of the questions we are trying to provide answers to with the POLAR STAR Methodology. The 'STEAM education' part of the POLAR STAR Methodology is focused on how Science and STEAM is introduced in schools and the effective use of related learning methodologies. POLAR STAR aims to take the best of many worlds, collect high quality learning tools and organize them under a methodological plan that designates how the tools can be apt for use in a complementary way as different elements of one seamless STEAM methodology. This way, our methodology will optimise the use of each of these tools and ensure that teachers obtain a deeper understanding of the capabilities, functions and added value of each of them, and that they are in position to decide and choose the best tool to be used depending on the needs of their class at any given point.
Finding your way around STEAM
STEAM, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics, is an educational framework for all educational levels which seeks to engage students and teachers in trans-disciplinary learning in a student-centered, collaborative and iterative environment. STEAM is more than a lesson design or a class configuration; it is a culture focused on pushing students’ deep thinking while solving problems which might concern themselves, their school and the overall community. Since STEAM promotes the integration of multiple disciplines beyond STEM, it supports the development of links between science, innovation and arts which have the potential to facilitate the creation of new creative ideas and solutions(1).
In the context of a STEAM setting, students gain authentic experiences through dealing with problems and being encouraged to provide solutions by employing knowledge and skills from different disciplines through innovation, creativity, critical thinking, effective communication and collaboration. Also, STEAM as an approach to teaching and learning, has the potential to produce powerful, authentic learning opportunities for students’ meaningful participation in challenging STEAM fields needed in the future workforce. In doing so, learners are equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills related to the fields of science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics. These knowledge and skills, which are aligned with the 21st century skills (critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, technology literacy, etc.) are integrated in teaching in ways that help students not only to understand the underlying principles, but to be able to practice and create products needed in daily life. Consequently, STEAM teaching is about the student rather than the subject areas, as it empowers them to envision themselves not just as future scientists or engineers but also as designers and creators.
(1) European Commission. (2015). Science education for responsible citizenship. ( No. 26893). Luxembourg: Publications Office. Retrieved from http://dx.publications.europa.eu/10.2777/12626
STEAM is not only about the focus of the subject taught, is also about the teaching and learning approach. A science oriented STEAM approach for example is more focused on experimenting with the aim to verify or reject a certain hypothesis. An Engineering approach on the other hand is usually more focused on addressing a given problem and producing a tangible solution. When designing or implementing a STEAM acitivity teachers need to think about how the wish to approach the subject at hand, consider which approach is most effective and how the other STEAM disciplines can be interweaved into one seamless episode of learing.
There are many different ways to do STEAM acitivities in your class. Depending on the subject, a teacher may choose to go down different pathways. For example, for one particular subject one may focus more heavily on the Science part and keep some minimal references to related technological applications and engineering problems. In another case, the technological application of a subject maybe so substantial that it is best to build the entire lesson around that. In other cases, a science subject could be very closely related to Art and the teacher may choose to use Art as the main vehicle to teach that particular subject.
STEAM is not only about the focus of the subject taught, is also about the teaching and learning approach. A science oriented STEAM approach for example is more focused on experimenting with the aim to verify or reject a certain hypothesis. An Engineering approach on the other hand is usually more focused on addressing a given problem and producing a tangible solution.
When designing or implementing a STEAM acitivity teachers need to think about how the wish to approach the subject at hand, consider which approach is most effective and how the other STEAM disciplines can be interweaved into one seamless episode of learing.
Technology in terms of technological achievements go hand-in hand with providing solutions to emergining challenges of socieities so it is directly related to Engineering. To that end, a separate template for technology oriented activities is not provided. Instead, the Technology-STEAM part of our toolkit focuses on the deployment of technological solutions and digital tools within the learning process. The toolkit also includes a guide to help teachers get oriented and decide which STEAM option fits their needs best when designing an activitiy or organizing their lesson.
The Mathematics-STEAM part will also be soon delivered and it will aim to guide Math teachers to introduce Mathematical concepts through concrete examples based on the remaining disciplines.
STEAM Education Toolkit