This Friday, November 8, is national STEM/STEAM day. S.T.E.A.M. is an acronym for the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics. The acronym was first introduced by scientific administrators at the U.S. National Science Foundation in 2001 and is now used widely across the U.S. and beyond. Aside from just the disciplines themselves, some of the key goals of STEAM education are to be interdisciplinary – often using technology to connect the subjects — and to connect teaching to the outside world. Collaboration, questioning, problem-solving and critical thinking are also imperative for STEAM.
In the 2011 State of the Union address, President Obama called for a new “Sputik moment,” to encourage the U.S. to ramp up technological innovation to stay competitive with other nations, spur economic growth, preserve national security and propel ingenuity. This was a reference to the 1957 space race with Russia and the resulting growth in science and technological innovation. This call was backed up with millions made available for teacher training, grants and research.
Schools took up the torch and have been introducing STEAM education initiatives at a steady pace. As Friday approaches, here are a few ideas for bringing STEAM to life in the classroom:
- Do the robot.
Robotics programs develop problem-solving skills and help students understand how things work. Some products come with a robot already assembled, like Wonder Workshop’s Cue, Dot and Dash, while others provide code-able building blocks with sensors, lights, motors and more for kids to assemble (like Cubetto, Modular Robotics and Robo Wunderkind) using their own creativity. Many of these options include lesson plans, curriculum, professional development and classroom connect options. At any age, robots and coding can help teach essential STEAM skills, including many math and science concepts.
- Go Virtual.
Employment in STEM occupations is projects to increase 10.1% from 2015-2025, while non-STEM employment is forecast to rise 6.5%. Virtual reality is already being used today in the medical field and engineering. Introducing VR to students gets them familiar with using this type of technology, while also being a new and engaging way to learn. Students can do virtual field trips to museums around the world or get a tutorial in shop class on how to fix an engine. Virtual reality is a great way to connect what students learn to the wider world. Try Veative or Lenovo headsets, or record 360° video that you can upload and share with the Live Planet VR camera.
- It’s Electric.
Circuits make computers, digital cameras and video games possible. They are driving an unprecedented rate of change in how we live. There are lots of ways to strip back the physics and present circuits in an accessible way for kids. The Makey Makey connects to the computer, uses alligator clips to connect to the world and creates incredibly fun lessons for students – just try making the banana piano and watch the hilarity ensue! Other options include products like Electro Dough from Tech Will Save Us and the conductive ink pen from Circuit Scribe.
- Break the code.
When it comes to prioritizing which 21st Century skills students need to develop, coding is at the top of the list for Gen Alpha. In fact, coding will be a basic literacy in the future. It’s a language most people in the workforce will be expected to “speak”. In STEAM terms, coding helps kids learn math skills they can apply to the real-world situations in a way that is fun and creative. Coding is attached to some of the other things on our list, including robotics and circuits, but a few additional vendors who provide great coding toys and products are Matatalab, Makeblock, Sony/KOOV, and Kano.
November 8th was assigned STEM/STEAM day for a reason. The date plays into one of the key components for any successful STEM/STEAM initiative – NOV8=Innovate. So have fun with your students this Friday and be creative in how you showcase these vital subjects throughout the year.