Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Full steam ahead with STEAM based learning

STEAM is an acronym that stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math. Before there was STEAM, there was “STEM”. The “A” was added later based on the idea that, through the integration of arts with other disciplines, students who have not been traditionally as engaged in math and science are able to build confidence and be exposed to new opportunities in these areas that support their learning across the curriculum. I would also propose the opposite idea is true, that “STEAM” activities facilitate opportunities for students who are interested in maths and sciences to have an accessible entry point to the arts.

Striving for deep learning means creating an infrastructure during activities that requires students to think, question, create and take ownership of their learning. STEAM also helps highlight the real life application of skills. For example, “design challenge” STEAM activities require students to work together to create a product that meets certain criteria, giving them a practical purpose. In fulfilling this requirement, they also have the opportunity to communicate with peers, ask questions, imagine possibilities, plan collaboratively and improve their design in a cycle of learning. They also learn that failure and improvement are a part of learning…a valuable life lesson!

At the end of the day, we all want our students to be happy, well-rounded, engaged learners that have the skills required to support them in their journey through life. STEAM activities are one of many paths that can be used to facilitate this goal.

Happy STEAM-ing!
As a provocation, students were shown pictures and videos of bubble blowing and asked to find the math, science and art. Then, with a goal of learning to use technological problem-solving skills to design, build, and test a device that involves interactions between liquids and solids, students were asked to create a device that would allow them to make the largest bubble possible.  
Jackson Pollock Meets STEAM
Students participated in a shared reading of the book, “The Most Magnificent Thing” which illustrates the process of failure, re-evaluation, re-planning and trying again.  They were then asked to create a device that launches their pompom to hit the target.  Once the designs were completed, the students were then told that they would be dipping their pompoms in paint prior to launching, thereby creating a Jackson Pollock-esque work of art!  
Hallow-STEAM Plastic Bag Monsters
Prior to making their creations, students watched a video about the detrimental effects of discarded plastic bags on the environment. Their task was to use the bags and a fan to create a monster that moves, writing a message on the monster that they want to share with the world!