What is STEAM Learning?
Date Posted:8 November 2019
I’m sure as parents we’ve all seen the term STEM or STEAM learning being used before to describe an educational program for our children. However, have you ever stopped to think to yourself,
“What exactly is STEAM and how does it benefit my child?”
The purpose of this week’s post is to delve deeper into the meaning behind STEAM so that we can answer some of the questions you may have as parents with children that are entering school in the near future.
STEAM is the evolution of the previously mentioned STEM. It stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics. The drawback to the old STEM model was that it did not explicitly address developing creativity within children. Moving forward into the future it has been recognised that creativity and the arts will be skills that are in high demand as regular jobs become more and more automated. STEAM is the solution to carrying over the benefits of STEM and integrating the fundamental principles in the Arts. Instead of being limited, students are encouraged to use their imagination and creativity to ‘push the envelope’ and analyse and critique things from a different perspective.
So what does STEAM set out to achieve?
Exposes students to the creative process
The philosophy behind exposing students to different elements of STEAM encourages them to go through the entire creative process of asking questions, discovering answers, applying knowledge and then using the knowledge to creatively solve problems.
Offers Meaningful Collaboration
A key tool of the STEAM system is teamwork. Students are encouraged to talk to each other and engage in the exchange of ideas. The goal behind this is to replicate real-world scenarios in which ways to solve problems are discussed. In practice, it is noteworthy to observe the difference between the children who approach teamwork with excitement versus those who are shyer or more apprehensive. It is very rewarding when educators observe the growth and progression of those shy students as they become more social and collaborative!
Increases Critical Thinking
The overall goal of STEAM is to encourage students to practice systematic thinking and analysis of information to figure out the best solution. Overlap of learning domains helps to ‘fire’ different synapses within the brain, allowing students to consider problems from multiple perspectives.
Facilitates Creative Problem-Solving
The way that STEAM projects are taught encourages children to explore more ‘out of the box’ methods of solving problems. A key driver of this type of problem solving is exposing children to ‘trial and error’. Calculated risk-taking is encouraged to get students away from the formularised habit of only using known methods or formulas to solve problems in a sequence. The goal of the STEAM approach is to develop more creative, non-linear ways of thinking and problem-solving in students.
Gives all Students Hands-On Learning Experiences
STEAM providers recognise that raising a child is a unique process. It is highly unlikely that all children in a classroom were exposed to the same stimuli in their formative years. Some students grow up in homes where creativity and hands-on fixing and building is encouraged, whereas others may have never been exposed to those same activities. By giving all children a chance to be hands-on with a variety of materials and tools, the playing field is levelled; all students should know how to handle objects and tools effectively, regardless of race, gender or socio-economic status.
Where to go from here?
As we’ve grown and developed into our role as early learning service providers we have had to evolve and adjust our philosophies as new information and research comes to light. On one hand, we’ve noticed a strong push into structured STEAM learning – on the other we’ve observed the opposite, with a greater emphasis being placed on play.
Our philosophy at Piptree has always revolved around balance – our mission is to assist in developing future generations into well-rounded, free-thinking individuals that are inspired to continue their life-long journey of learning.
In saying that, we feel like a cross-road of sorts has been reached. Many families are delving deeper into academic training, using a wide range of technology in an attempt to accelerate their children’s development. At the same time, however, we have observed the effects that this level of technological exposure has had at such a young age. This is why we are very careful when choosing the tools that we use to educate and stimulate the children in our care.
As mentioned in previous blog posts, we know that technology is here to stay – there is no escaping that fact. We also acknowledge our responsibility for preparing children to enter the ‘digital world’ during their schooling years by exposing them to some forms of technology. However, we need to keep in mind that at the core of all the learning domains is the concept of social competence.
Social competence is defined as
“…the ability to handle social interactions effectively.” (Orpinas, 2010)
In other words, the concept of social competence includes:
- Getting along well with peers
- The ability to form and maintain close social relationships
- Adaptability to respond to various social situations
We truly believe in the importance of developing social competence in children from as early an age as possible. Just by enrolling your child into an early learning centre you are preparing them for the thousands of social interactions that they will be navigating as they grow. The concept of learning to play and playing to learn perfectly summarises our philosophy. We apply the elements of STEAM in our classrooms while being aware of the academic capabilities of the children in our care. In simplicity, strict academic education is not the most important skill that should be imparted into children aged from 0 to 5.
It is much more important to expose them to a variety of different stimuli and people so they can begin exercising their curiosity by exploring the world around them. Curiosity and exploration are key elements that contribute to the social competence of a child. By keeping this concept at the centre of our philosophy, we aim to address both academic and personal development within all children at Piptree!
- Orpinas, Pamela. (2010). Social Competence. The Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology Fourth Edition, Volume 4. (Link)
- Room 241 Team. (2017). The Benefits of Teaching STEAM Lessons. A blog by Concordia University-Portland. (Link)