Much has been proclaimed about the need for STEM programs in schools. The logic is simple: the wave of future economic prosperity lies in a workforce that is well-versed in rising job markets like science, technology, engineering and math. Thus, there has been an increased investment in STEM initiatives in schools. While these initiatives are a wonderful start into the exploration of these four areas of study, the critical process of creativity and innovation is missing. Students in STEM programs may have more experiential learning opportunities, but they are limited to only science, technology, engineering and math. Our economy requires so much more than an understanding of these areas – it requires application, creation and ingenuity. However, STEM alone does not foster these essential nutrients.
STEAM is an educational approach to learning that uses Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics as access points for guiding student inquiry, dialogue, and critical thinking. The end results are students who take thoughtful risks, engage in experiential learning, persist in problem-solving, embrace collaboration, and work through the creative process. These are the innovators, educators, leaders, and learners of the 21st century! STEAM is a way to take the benefits of STEM and complete the package by integrating these principles in and through the arts. STEAM takes STEM to the next level: it allows students to connect their learning in these critical areas together with arts practices, elements, design principles, and standards to provide the whole pallet of learning at their disposal. STEAM removes limitations and replaces them with wonder, critique, inquiry, and innovation.
A robust STEAM program was implemented a number of years ago at SRDS, including the provision of mobile devices for students, after-school clubs or programs such as the SRDS summer digital media arts program, BYOD initiatives (bring your own device), and a fully equipped state-of-the-art IDEAS (Innovation/Design/Engineering/Art/Science) MakerSpace Lab that offers everything from robotics programs to 3D printing and much more. An Upper School Engineering Class was added to the course offerings this year where students designed and constructed prototypes for prosthetic limbs, water bottles, and more.
Recently 7th Grade Science students were challenged to design and build race cars from everyday materials. Students followed the Engineering Design process and spent time testing and improving their designs and collecting data about the speed and velocity. At the end of this project the cars competed in three categories: speed, distance and aesthetics. The students and onlookers cheered as the cars raced down the SRDS driveway and winners high-fived each other as their cars crossed the finish line. Middle School Science and Engineering teacher Anastasia Kelly said, "Many of our kids do well with hands-on learning and it gives them a chance to use their knowledge in a real-world application."
Research shows that students and teachers engaged in STEAM make more real-life connections so that school is not just a place where you "go to learn" but instead becomes the entire experience of learning itself. SRDS remains committed to researching and implementing innovative methods to incorporate STEAM into its challenging academic curriculum at all levels as we prepare our students for success in college and beyond.