Today, many students and families have become familiar with the concept of “STEM” - or Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. STEM provides a solid foundation on which to build a student’s ability to then use what they have learned in the real world. But, have you heard of STEAM?
That’s right. It’s not a typo. STEAM is the latest innovation in education because it combines the lessons and foundations already being taught through STEM subjects and adds the arts and design to it. Hence, STEAM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics. Incorporating the arts into STEM allows for greater creativity, innovation, and application of STEM-based concepts in the real world.
At Watt Watchers of Texas, we understand how critical it is that students get a well-rounded education in order to succeed in life. For that reason, we are able to provide STEAM education resources for teachers and parents throughout Texas. We are excited to help students reach their full potential in the STEAM education system which is why all of our online resources are always free to access and download.
The STEAM education movement was developed by the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in response to the shortcomings of only having STEM education without the added influence of the arts. In terms of “the arts,” it goes well beyond simple aesthetics. Arts incorporates language arts, social studies, physical arts, fine arts, and music. Essentially, the goal of STEAM is to help students connect the principles they learn in STEM fields and apply them through art and design.
By adding Arts into STEM, it allows students to wonder, innovate, and inquire when considering how they can apply the STEM foundations they have successfully learned. While dancing, creating or listening to music, reading literature, or playing games may not seem like activities which encourage serious scientific inquiry, STEAM education provides a way to connect these activities (and many others) to the STEM fields for a fully cohesive and comprehensive classroom experience.
Incorporating arts education into the already established Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics system is not simply a matter of encouraging students to read a work of fiction or listen to a piece of classical music. Rather, the arts are a critical piece of their overall education in the STEM fields because it gives students tools and techniques to figure out ways of solving problems, displaying data, and making connections between fields. Although many people see the STEM fields and the arts in dramatically different spheres of the educational system, they are actually quite complementary to each other and are most necessary for all students to know and understand. For a fully comprehensive learning experience that encourages innovation, it is essential that a STEM education includes the arts component.
While in the classroom, a true STEAM education experience will ensure that the task or activity at hand incorporates a STEM field as well as some type of arts component. Students will need to analyze the situation, examine all of the angles and particulars of the problem, and then develop innovative approaches to solve the issue. The last portion is where being too rigid in their approach can be limiting, so the arts aspects will allow students to be creative, solve problems together, and make inquiries that may not fall in line with the typical STEM principles.
Hands-on projects that include real-world problem-solving skills or scientific principles come to life are two of the best ways to ensure that students are fully engrossed in the STEAM learning experience. The STEM acronym stands for science, technology, engineering and maths. “STEAM” adds the arts – visual arts, new media, drama, music, and so on.
A great example of STEAM learning is our Junk Art activity. This activity focuses on the “reuse” theme of reduce-reuse-recycle. Students collect waste materials (paper, bottles, cans, cardboard tubes, fabric, etc) and find other uses for them either practically, for a school project, or as art objects. Cutting utensils or sharp objects may not be suitable for younger students, but otherwise this is an activity for students of all ages. Students work individually or in groups to decide a scene from a book either read in class or at home to illustrate. Using the shoebox as a “stage,” students should recreate the scene or setting, reusing as many materials as necessary to tell the story. Pencils too short to write can become a fence, and small cardboard boxes can serve as buildings in the setting. Creativity counts, and the more materials used again rather than on first use, the better. The creative process and problem-based learning is what makes this our favorite STEAM activity!
At Watt Watchers of Texas, we are a state-sponsored STEM program designed to help boost energy literacy for students in grades K-12. We have developed programs to help teachers, administrators, and parents show their kids the value of energy efficiency and conservation. We are also advocates of STEAM education and making sure that students get hands-on learning to understand the value of the arts in science. Contact us today to learn more about all of our energy sustainability and conservation programs (including the Student Patrol Program) and to get access to our online resources.
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Watt Watchers of Texas
204 E. Dean Keeton Street, Austin, Texas 78712