You may have heard the term STEM or STEAM recently as part of your child's education. We're finding that many parents are feeling lost about what STEAM is and how they can help as education moves quickly in a new direction of maker-spaces, coding, and electronics in the classroom. This is a quick intro on what STEAM is for parents who want to stay up to date.
WHAT IS STEM OR STEAM?
Kind of like the subject area language arts, STEM is a mix of interrelated subjects that are taught together in an integrated way. STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering, and math. KitHub and some other STEM initiatives are pioneering the term STEAM, which adds an 'A' to the acronym for art.
There is a lot of research suggesting that integrating these subjects, especially adding a creative component with art, is beneficial for students and makes sense for the way kids learn. STEAM lessons are usually hands-on and exploratory (your might hear your child's teacher using the term inquiry-based). STEAM education prepares students for the real world, where professionals often use multiple disciplines (an engineer might also use a lot of math or a programmer might find creative approaches helpful to solving a problem.)
You might be hearing a lot more about STEAM because it's becoming increasingly important that schools and communities catch up to educating modern students. Most school districts in the US don't have a set curriculum for coding. Many schools don't have enough technology resources to fully integrate technology into education. For what some schools may lack, you might be able to find other resources in you community to help your child practice STEAM learning.
WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR IN MY KID'S SCHOOL?
Ask your child's teacher about hands-on STEAM lessons or school activities. Some schools integrate STEAM in the classroom and other schools have clubs or fairs to encourage school-wide excitement. Make sure you find out about any after school or summer school programs that your school has partnerships with as well. The school librarian is usually a great resource to find out about school maker-spaces or technology initiatives.
WHAT RESOURCES CAN I FIND IN MY COMMUNITY?
Community maker-spaces have been popping up in cities all over the world. A maker-space is an area that holds events or sometimes rents out space or equipment to make all kinds of projects. Lots of maker-spaces have things like 3D printers, laser cutting machines, and woodworking tools. They might charge a membership fee or one-time fee, and sometimes they are free! Maker-spaces are a great resource for STEAM learning.
There are lots of government, business, and community sponsored STEM initiatives as well. You can find online inspiration and resources for school and home.
HOW CAN I HELP AT HOME?
The best way to prepare students for STEAM learning is to start young and make it interesting to them. Provide a variety of experiences that your child enjoys, like going to science museums, making STEAM kits, reading STEAM books, and going to maker-spaces.