The STEAM Educational Approach to Learning


steam educational approach graphic
You may have already heard of STEM learning before. It is an integrated learning approach that involves science, technology, engineering, and math. The theory behind this integrated learning approach is that students will be better prepared in our global economy that is increasingly made up of the skills found in STEM subjects.

There is now a newer learning approach called STEAM that fills in some critical gaps left over by the STEM approach. STEAM, as you may have noticed, adds the letter A. The A stands for the Arts and is crucial to critical thinking and learning according to many educators, employers, and other experts.

What’s Wrong With STEM?

The STEM initiative has been very popular and fast-moving. More children have more access to science, technology, engineering, and math concepts, instruments, and thought processes than ever before. STEM provides an in-depth knowledge of math and science, along with the abilities to integrate and apply that knowledge to solve real-world problems. Students develop problem-solving skills, creativity, communication skills, collaboration skills, and more. So, what’s wrong with that? Nothing, really.

STEM has been instrumental in expanding minds and providing opportunities that simply weren’t there before. However, it does leave out the arts, which makes it difficult to incorporate STEM principles into all subjects. In addition, some argue the arts are critical to the wholeness of a person. They certainly open the mind and help students with creativity, problem solving, and developing original ideas and solutions.

Ruth Catchen, artist, educator, and STEAM proponent, says that adding the arts to STEM will actually improve the success of STEM, as it offers more diversity in learning opportunities and engages all types of learners.

STEAM provides a bridge for the learning of STEM to be connected with design principles, arts practices, elements, and standards that broaden the understanding of the subjects that fall under the STEM umbrella.

STEAM adds the why to the ‘how’ and ‘what.’ It allows for students to think deeper about problems, to take the skills and processes from science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math and solve problems that aren’t obvious.

How to Make Sure STEAM Does What It Should

STEAM may fall short of its potential without some core components.

  • STEAM must remain an integrated approach to learning, meaning a connection is made between standards, lesson design, and assessments.
  • Two or more standards from science, technology, engineering, math arts and math must be taught and assessed through each other.
  • The approach to learning needs to involve collaboration, inquiry, and an emphasis on process-based learning.

This means the learning process must be collaborative, including a cross-section of teachers. Schedules will need to be adjusted, and teachers and staff will need to receive professional development training. It isn’t enough to simply add an artistic element to a lesson. The artistic component must be taught together with the other standards and accessed equally.

The Arts Includes More Children

Including the arts not only expands the way subjects will be taught, it includes children who might have no interest in STEM otherwise. Adding an art component to computer science makes the subject less intimidating for some children, and likely more fun for all. Art is already used in websites, interface design, product design, and more.

An educational preschool such as Little Academy of Humble that incorporates the STEAM approach to learning gives young children a head start in life. When children can view problems through a variety of lenses, their minds are more open to learning and problem-solving.

Incorporating STEAM is no easy feat, but it’s important. Not only does it provide a more enriching life for our children, but it opens up more jobs, expands our economy, and gives our children a better future.

Little Academy of Humble is a strong proponent of the STEAM educational approach to learning and implements the principles of STEAM into all of our curriculum and activities.

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