There is nothing particularly new or groundbreaking about STEM or STEAM as a methodology in our classrooms. A lot of its traits are found occurring naturally within every school-day all over the country. There is a good chance that if you’re reading this to find out more about it, you’ll discover that you’re an accomplished STEAM practitioner already! There is no doubt that the word has gained more attention in recent years. Like every ‘movement’ in teaching, it starts as a background noise in your email inbox or a flyer in the staffroom before you get to know exactly what STEAM is. Understandably, this can often be a dangerous phase for misconceptions about it and if we’re going to learn what STEAM is – a good place to start is to know what its not.
Sometimes even its name can be slightly misleading. If most of us teachers or our pupils were asked to draw a STEAM project – what would we draw? There’s a good chance a ‘tower’ or a ‘bridge’ would be involved or some construction made from kitchen rolls. But STEAM doesn’t have to be heavy on materials and, although an important element, it isn’t construction or engineering. Neither is it always pigeonholed into the other disciplines that give us its acronym – Science, Technology, Art or Maths. Those, like all the others in our curriculum, are subjects where we present our pupils with knowledge. STEAM is a way of creatively showing what they can do with that knowledge.
Put simply, it is a set of skills. Skills that are relevant and apply learning to the children’s real lives and ones they will need for the world they will go on to work in. Very few jobs here in Ireland or anywhere in twenty years’ time will solely require ‘learned off’ information.
The 21st century workplace will require planning, design and exploration; genuine collaboration and teamwork skills; being able to think critically and ‘on the spot’ to solve problems; it will call on innovation and originality and very importantly, it will challenge our pupils – it will involve failure and ask questions of our pupils when things go wrong.
STEAM can be any classroom project that allows pupils to realise and practice these skills. And although probably more recognisable in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths they can be integrated into any subject on our curriculum.
When we look at STEAM like this, it doesn’t elbow in and demand more space on our already crammed timetables. In fact, it can deepen and compliment the learning in the subjects already there and in many ways make their content more relevant for the world and times our pupils live in. These skills can fit into any topic or subject.
The STEAMING project has been funded by the European Commission through the Erasmus + programme. The European Commission's support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents, which reflect the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.