What is STEAM Education?

Acronyms and buzzwords are frequently tossed around in conversations about pretty much everything under the sun, including education. You’ve probably heard of STEM education and maybe even STEAM education, but you may not know precisely what it is or why it’s important.

What Are STEM and STEAM Education?

The acronym STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, while its richer cousin is STEAM—the A indicates Arts (and humanities). STEM education became a popular curriculum focus in the 1990s as a way to encourage more students to pursue these areas of study in order to stay competitive and prepare students for careers in the rapidly advancing world of technology. Arts have been incorporated (changing the term to STEAM) as ongoing research indicates that including arts and humanities complements and enriches STEM education, making it more effective and enjoyable overall.

Comparing STEAM and STEM Education

The initial push for STEM education was, in part, to address the belief that there was a shortage of qualified candidates for jobs in scientific, technological, engineering, and mathematical fields. The idea was to develop curriculums that would make these more appealing, interesting, less intimidating areas for students to explore. While that has been effective, and has sparked renewed interest in these classes, many educators saw the need to make this approach a more comprehensive curriculum. Georgette Yakman, in particular, studied what was happening with STEM education, and developed the STEAM framework which is an integrated, liberal arts-style curriculum which is used at all educational levels across the United States and in dozens of other countries.

What Are the Advantages of a STEAM Education Approach?

A STEAM-based curriculum integrates learning across all coursework and content areas, including science, technology, engineering, arts and humanities, and math. Lessons and learning are designed to highlight the importance each of the STEAM focuses has for the others, and how they are all interconnected. Some  of the most powerful advantages of a STEAM approach include:

  1. Scaffolding — While not unique to STEAM education, scaffolding is central to this approach, so that new knowledge and skills aren’t taught or learned in isolation, but are connected to and built upon a foundation of what has already been learned.
  2. Versatility — Because a STEAM approach gives equal footing to so many different areas, almost every student can find an area in which they excel, and each learning style can be more easily supported.
  3. Complementary — STEAM approaches don’t need to be the whole curriculum, but can be one of several components that create a whole that matches a school’s particular mission and values.
  4. Promoting Lifelong Learning — Always important to us at LVDS, a STEAM methodology encourages curiosity and problem solving, which are critical skills in creating lifelong learners.
  5. Building Skills for Life — Many skills that are central to a STEAM-styled education are ones which can benefit students throughout their lives, including prediction, observation, analysis, and critical thinking.

STEAM Education at LVDS

The STEAM philosophy of integrated, investigative learning permeates all of our classrooms, from those of our youngest preschoolers to our graduating eighth graders.

STEAM Education for Our Youngest Students

Our Kinderschool (Preschool, Pre-Kindergarten, and Kindergarten) program centers on discovery-based, STEAM-style learning that integrates writing, math, social studies, science, technology, art, music, Spanish, and physical education. Children can explore and learn independently, in small groups, and as a class. Some important elements of this approach include:

  1. Encouraging youngsters to be curious about how the world around them works
  2. Promoting active exploration of that world to learn the “whys” and “hows” both through directed learning and their own experimentation
  3. Teaching children to observe, predict, and reflect on what they see and what they think might happen
  4. Encouraging children to look for patterns, similarities, and differences in multiple subject areas
  5. Supporting curiosity and engaging children in active learning and hands-on activities

STEAM Education and Our Elementary School

Elementary STEAM education builds on the skills and frameworks students gain in Kinderschool to encourage deeper, more involved explorations of subjects and the connections between them. Elementary students also have an added focus on computer and technology literacy that connects through their other courses.

  1. When appropriate, learning is hands-on, rather than purely book and lecture driven
  2. Problem solving and critical thinking skills are vital parts
  3. Subject areas are integrated as much as possible, for example, a math project might involve a combination of calculations and designing fractal art
  4. Students are encouraged to explore possible solutions whenever an issue may arise during the school day, for example, brainstorming their own creative solutions if there are more students who want to use the slides on the playground than there are slides available

STEAM Education with Our Middle School

Middle school students have a well-integrated curriculum which focuses on a solid understanding of vital subject areas and skills while helping students build connections across subjects and explore how they interact in solid, STEAM style. This combination of traditional and STEAM approaches ensures they are well prepared for their future education and life itself. STEAM education is an excellent fit for middle school because:

  1. These years are a critical time when the basics are in place and students are starting to discover their own interests and find their passions
  2. Middle school students are transitioning from concrete to more abstract thinking, so a system that connects everything and incorporates both traditional and hands-on learning can best benefit them.
  3. STEAM education’s emphasis on imagination, creativity, and problem-solving in conjunction with solid knowledge and skills gives students opportunities to thrive in areas that require that combination of skills, such as computer programming
  4. Hands-on activities and exploration can connect abstract learning to the real world, making learning more meaningful and that knowledge more long-lasting.

In short, STEAM education weaves connections through traditional learning and can help emphasize how each area of knowledge supports the others, so that when they are all used together, they help create the most successful and rewarding results. If you would like to learn more about our STEAM approach, or anything else about an LVDS education, we welcome you to contact us to arrange a tour of our campus and learn more about how we can set your children up for success.

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