What is STEAM?
The field of education is all about acronyms and abbreviations. STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math and it has become quite the buzzword in educational circles over the last five years. In the last decade, student achievement scores in the areas of math and science have gone down considerably in the United States. This decline puts us at a disadvantage when it comes to competing with other nations.
All across the nation, STEAM academies and in-school programs are popping up as a way to combat this problem. By using project based learning (PBL), schools are working with students to develop skills such as working collaboratively, creative problem solving, and thoughtful risk taking. Educators are finding that by posing questions instead of giving lectures, children are more engaged in the learning process and are eager to be in school.
For example, the first grade class at a STEAM program in Atlanta attacked the following problem: how can we prepare for natural disasters? They studied the causes of natural disasters and how to adequately prepare for them. Then, they graphed daily weather patterns and tallied the number of natural disasters that occurred in different regions. Students used technology and recorded news broadcasts and animated videos to teach people how to prepare for natural disasters. They designed robots to help clean up debris and constructed murals depicting natural disasters.
As parents, what is our role in supporting the STEAM movement? One way is to encourage children to invent creative ways to solve problems. Let them try out their solutions, even if you are not sure that they will work. They just might surprise you.
You can apply these principles to children of all ages. For example, if you take your young child to the grocery store, talk with them about the things they see. Have them weigh fruits and vegetables for you. Ask them to guess what foods weigh more. When you get home with your groceries, have them sort them into categories for you. Read different stories to them about food and grocery stores. Find a recipe and have them help you prepare it. All of these things are part of STEAM.
Some of these activities may take a little more time and preparation, but they do not have to cost any extra money. Children are naturally curious, and STEAM activities take advantage of that curiosity and turns little questions into large learning opportunities.
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