The “A” in STEAM lessons learned from #NErdcampLI
There is a buzz in schools around the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics or STEM. Schools across the tri-state area are adopting or finding ways to incorporate STEM into children’s school days. Often there is a discussion whether or not it should be STEM or as some of the people call it STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, “Art” and Mathematics). What is the difference often comes down to the ways in which people will interpret the meaning behind it? In my mind, the A is important to add to the discussion when we are talking about STEM. It makes sense to add the A, from this educator's standpoint you want students to become creative when designing. Having the A expands the idea of STEM into STEAM and allows for a more rounded student learning experience. Students are often very engaged in learning about STEAM and learning valuable skills such as collaborations, teamwork, and critical thinking. These skills are essential for students to learn as they are necessary life skills to have and help develop relationships skills in education life.
However, there is a misunderstanding where people assume the “A” stands for Creative Arts which include drawing, painting, paper and fabric making to name a few. Stop and think for a second and let’s see why one can’t make the argument for the “A” also to stand for Creative Writing or Performing Arts as well. After attending #NEcampLI and attending a few workshop one on Fractured Fairy Tales and one on Non-Fiction I have changed the way that I am teaching writing & STEM/STEAM. Currently, I have been playing around with a new lesson that involves reading the Three Little Pigs. After reading the students build a house out of straws, wood (popsicles sticks) and brick (index cards). The students are more engaged in the challenge and have a better understanding of their mission.
During the session, author, Tara Lazar (@taralazar) shared many other ideas and stories you can use to tie in Fairy Tales to STEAM. Make sure you check out Tara’s Pinterest page for other ways to incorporate fairy tales into your STEAM lessons. (https://www.pinterest.com/taralazar/fairy-tales-for-stem-steam/ (Also make sure to check out Cybraryman’s website on Fairy Tales http://cybraryman.com/fairytales.html).
I know I will be using Three Billy Goat Gruffs for when I do the bridge challenge with my students along with thinking of a way to tie in Little Red Sliding Hood (https://taralazar.com/taras-books/little-red-gliding-hood/). While the "doing" of STEM/STEAM work is key, the need to link it back to relevant learning is still paramount. That's why connecting to fairy tales is so powerful for younger learners.
In the Non-Fiction Workshop, I heard from Susan Hood (@sHood125) who was sharing her book Ada’s Violin (http://www.susanhoodbooks.com/node/182) which is the story about Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay, an orchestra made up of children playing instruments built from recycled trash. How about reading that story to your students than having them making their instruments from recycled materials they can find at home or school.
Often we discuss what the A in STEAM stands for, and the response is the Arts. Let’s make that Arts, not just the Creative Arts but Creative Writing and the Performing Arts as well.