At iCAMP, we believe art and creativity must go hand-in-hand with the world of natural science, technology, engineering and mathematics. This philosophy is central to STEAM education, and is the main focus behind each of our lesson plans and every one of our courses.
By combining the arts and sciences for students in elementary school and early education, our educators can inspire a lifetime of love and appreciation for all parts of the human experience – encouraging your students to keep an open, yet critical mind as they grow and develop.
So, What Is STEAM Anyway?
To ensure you won’t get all the way through this article only pretty sure you know what STEAM stands for, let’s break it down here:
The “arts” were added in after it became clear that relying on STEM (the same acronym without the arts) to provide a complete, rounded education wasn’t enough. Even if a student fully matriculates through prestigious primary and secondary education institutions, can it really be said they have been educated completely if they have no knowledge of art and design?
Does an engineer that can think more critically, that can pull inspiration and references from their knowledge of the arts, have an advantage over one that cannot? We believe so.
According to the Institute for Arts Integration and STEAM, an educational approach that includes the arts creates students that are more likely to learn from experience and take thoughtful risks, who are less likely to give up when solving a problem, and are more capable of collaborating and creating with their peers.
This isn’t just guesswork either. Studies have found that students whose curriculum was infused with the arts “often outperformed” their peers who didn’t have the same exposure. Another study found that students exposed to STEAM as opposed to STEM-only courses “demonstrated greater improvement on their physical science benchmark assessments.”
5 Ways iCAMP Educators Integrate STEAM Principles
The arts are just one portion of STEAM, all told. Our courses include everything from mechanical engineering to coding and virtual world building. We even have a course on LEGO robotics! Throughout each lesson, however, students will be encouraged to use the scientific skills they learn to think creatively, invent, and express themselves.
Here are some of the strategies we employ when teaching children STEAM courses in our after school program.
Allowing time for creativity and customization: Even when a project requires technical knowledge and skill, there is always room to add in a little personality. Students of all ages are frequently encouraged to turn their projects into expressions of their own lives, preferences, and tastes. This teaches STEAM students that there are multiple layers to invention. Personalizing a project can often encourage you to make it the best it can be.
Encouraging discussion, not just direction: Our courses are always student led. Meaning, as much as possible, students are asked to comment and form their own opinions about what we’re doing in class on any given day. Not only does this give them a chance to work through their own feelings and make the class a community – it also helps to reinforce the idea that communicating with their peers is absolutely essential to building something that will stand the test of time. Collaboration is a skill that needs practice. Integrating discussion, creativity, and the arts into STEM activities gives students a chance to work out that muscle.
Integrating the arts and science into each lesson: Many of us are probably familiar with a very segregated approach to teaching the arts. You have math class and then you have art class after. However, to get the most out of both, it’s often best to integrate the classic STEM subjects with the arts simultaneously. For example, learning about Don Quixote is much more memorable when paired with a lesson on windmills and natural energy. Turning the abstract into reality shows students the real-world value of what they learn in school.
Teaching unplugged: Although not all of our courses can fit in “unplugged” lessons, we strive to incorporate unplugged activities into many of them. When we say unplugged, this just means we are not using a device or screen in the lesson. This gives our educators a chance to express the meaning behind the lessons students will eventually use their computers and tablets to complete. Unplugged lessons encourage children to pause and think about what they’re about to do before pressing forward – giving them time to use their critical thinking skills and come up with a better plan. Teaching unplugged can also give an educator a chance to learn more about each student and develop a lesson plan that will work for them, individually. Plus, a little time away from screens will undoubtedly do everyone some good!
Giving students a platform: Finally, what would all this be without a chance to show off? At iCAMP, many of our lessons culminate in a finished product that can be held in your student’s hands – and displayed proudly at home or in the classroom. In this way, students build confidence in what they do and work harder to create something they’re proud of.