Education insights

How to add STEAM to your classroom

For many years, school subjects were structured as stand-alone disciplines. Students learned science separately from math and English, with little to no crossover. 

The idea of STEM learning has not only broadened technical subject matter in schools to include technology and engineering, but has also popularized the idea of leveraging one subject to practice multiple disciplines. For example, building a robot incorporates concepts from all four STEM disciplines. 

Now, proponents of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) are encouraging teachers to add art into the multi-disciplinary mix. To expand on the example of building a robot, students might build a robot whose function is to tell stories.  

At first, art may seem like an unnatural or unnecessary add-on, but considering the role arts play in society and daily life, the power of STEAM quickly comes into focus. Here’s why STEAM learning can be a powerful approach.  

Why STEAM learning is valuable for students 

STEAM is a gateway to unlocking opportunities for students to learn in new ways, retain more information, and become more viable in the 21st century job market. 

Preparing for 21st century careers 

Many STEM disciplines that have practical applications beyond research involve some element of artistry. Careers that involve any sort of innovation and design process may even use all five elements of STEAM. Think of hardware and software design, video game design, architecture, and web design/development.  

It’s interesting to note that STEM careers have almost always involved art, where more artistically driven careers like marketing have only just begun to incorporate STEM elements, such as automation.  

In any case, the shift toward STEAM is only going to become more pronounced, and students who have a broad background of skills across multiple disciplines are going to fare better in the job market. 

Targeting different learning approaches 

A number of students struggle to learn STEM concepts, partly because those ideas feel so removed from our everyday experiences. For some, STEM learning can feel boring and confusing rather than exciting and illuminating.  

Revealing STEM concepts through art projects can be a powerful way to engage those learners who thrive when they get to be creative. The same students who may have no interest in building a robot may become fully engaged in building motorized puppets to perform a comedy sketch for their class. Sometimes having artistic expression as the end result can help students engage on a new level. 

Developing soft skills 

Another benefit of STEAM learning is it helps students tap into soft skills they’ll need in the workplace. While many STEM projects can promote collaboration, communication, and other workplace skills, adding the element of art requires students to communicate about their feelings.  

When students are challenged to communicate through art, they get to practice skills like metacognition and empathy as they try to inspire an emotional reaction from their audience or to at least clearly communicate their own emotions. These types of soft skills can translate to better workplace performance down the road. 

Implementing STEAM in your classroom 

Here are a few questions educators can ask as they look for ways to implement STEAM projects: 

  • What are some assignments or projects students have typically found less engaging? Is there a way to add an art element, such as storytelling, music, or design that will give this assignment new life? 
  • Which students demonstrate an affinity toward the arts? Are there enough opportunities for them to shine? 
  • Are there fine arts teachers in the school that can help create special learning opportunities or projects for students? 
  • What support or resources are needed from the school administration to make STEAM learning easier to implement? 

Importantly, there’s no need to start from scratch when coming up with STEAM assignments. Here are a few resources to get started: 

If a school is using LanSchool, there is an additional advantage. LanSchool’s screen monitoring feature helps teachers keep an eye on students’ activities and progress to make STEAM lesson time structured fun. When students are finished with a creative project, they can easily share with the class using the screen broadcasting feature. 

Looking for more ways to inspire and engage students? Read how instituting a Genius Hour can help students discover their passions.  

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