Educational trends come and go but STEAM is here to stay and Christiana Gonzalez, an Early Years Primary Years Programme educator at GEMS American Academy gives you tips to make it work.
words Tamara Clarke
Education that utilises STEAM is an approach to learning that uses science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics to guide inquiry, dialogue and critical thinking and it’s sweeping through schools in the capital. STEAM education is known for helping students become thoughtful risk takers, persistent problem solvers and willing collaborators. While it works as an addendum to any curriculum, Christiana feels that STEAM is a natural fit in the International Baccalaureate curriculum, which she teaches.
“As a PYP educator, we encourage our learners to be innovative and find creative solutions to everyday and world problems,” she says.
“STEAM is important because we live in a world that is ever-changing. It’s important to put emphasis on the sciences, technology, engineering, arts and maths in order to nurture innovative thinkers because the jobs we have now are certain to change and evolve as our world changes and evolves.”
Today’s students are the innovators, educators and leaders of tomorrow and STEAM education helps prepare them for the unknown.
“Learners who think ‘outside the box’ will be able to find solutions to problems we have now and will have in the future,” says Christiana. STEAM learning is crucial to developing the next generation and schools in the capital are embracing this education model with no signs of stopping.
Christiana is also a curriculum leader and teacher trainer in the UAE. Here are her top tips to help educators implement STEAM activities in the classroom:
Think outside the box. The goal of STEAM education is innovation and does not always have to involve technology. At a school where technology may be limited, create or find solutions to everyday problems. For example, our classroom lamp is broken. How can we fix it?
Find the missing link. Use literature as a link to STEAM challenges. A popular way to do this is to link STEAM to fairy tales. For example, let’s help Rapunzel find ways to escape from her tower. Students can use classroom materials and tools to create elevators or pulleys to help her escape. Pro Tip: There are tons of similar examples you can find with a quick Google.
Break it down. Have items like old cameras, keyboards and phones in the classroom for ‘tinkering’. Be sure to also include tools like screwdrivers, magnifying glasses and screws. Dismantling and putting things back together – sometimes in new ways – works wonders for development.
Home learning is a big part of very child’s success and Christiana recommends the following:
Tinker at home too. Tinkering at home with household items is both educational and a ton of fun! Letting students explore, take apart and put things back together at home is a good way to reinforce skills learned at school.
Find teachable moments. If something breaks in the house or is no longer working, ask your learner to help you fix it. This will enhance problem-solving and critical thinking skills.
Allow your learner to make mistakes! Mistakes and failures are what help to create grit and resilience and our inventors of tomorrow need these skills.