STEAM not STEM! by @boltcallum

STEM, the acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, is something that I am passionate about anyway. It is vitally important for children in the world today to be aware and fully functional in an increasingly technological society. Mankind is progressing at such a rate within the STEM areas and this is predicted to advance even quicker in the coming decade. STEM now has a secure place in schools. So imagine my excitement when I discovered that the Arts could be added to the mix!

STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering Art and Maths), as it is now referred to, is not a new initiative by any means but is still finding its feet in Britain. STEAM was created to encourage innovation in children and young adults by taking the traditionally creative subjects such as Art and applying their way of working into the Sciences. Adding Art to the original STEM curriculum essentially encourages more creative solutions to STEM problems.

Georgette Yakman, one of the early pioneers of STEAM, provides a clear definition that links the subjects together “Science and Technology, interpreted through Engineering and the Arts, all based in elements of Mathematics”. This is the definition that I prefer, especially the phrase ‘interpreted through’. When teaching or planning to teach I am always looking for a way to allow the children to show me what they have learnt. In Science, this is often through an Art project carried out in their sketchbooks. For example, recently when studying forces, more specifically rockets and the force that lifts them off the ground. While we watched videos of rockets blasting off, we asked the children to draw what they were seeing. This then led to fantastic discussions about the power needed to take them into space and gave the children a springboard for future learning as well as recording their initial observations, serving both the Art and Science curriculum.

Last year we had great success running a STEAM project across the school. Year groups were all given a painting by the artist Lowry and asked to find a STEM subject that linked to it in some way, then to spend the week developing this with the children. Something that really worked was that the project started in Nursery and went all of the way to Year 6. Every year group got involved. Lowry was a fantastic artist to study in regards to STEAM as his paintings have so many industrial subjects. As year 6 asked: Is technology always a good thing? In some of Lowry’s paintings, it certainly doesn’t look like it! Lowry would certainly not be the only artist I would look at in regards to STEAM. In Art History terms STEAM is not a new topic. Artists such as Leonardo da Vinci or Turner have strong links to the sciences. A blog post I recently wrote highlights Turners apparent love of science and how he applied it to his paintings.

STEAM in schools is still young but none the less exciting. The first step to success is definitely a science curriculum that allows for exploration through the arts. Something I am lucky to be fostering and developing currently. Art is always better if taught in a cross-curricular way and STEAM gives it such purpose and rises it to the standing it should always be! STEAM not STEM a common phrase in my school for a long time to come.

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The Editorial Account of UKEdChat, managed by editor-in-chief Colin Hill, with support from Martin Burrett from the UKEd Magazine. Pedagogy, Resources, Community.

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