Integrating STEAM into your Curriculum

If you have been a teacher for any length of time, you have more than likely heard of STEM in regards to instructional methodology. Like any other new or trendy learning system or instructional method, teachers can be intimidated by the STEM acronym because they simply don’t know enough about it. The Connecting Link offers a course titled Integrating STEAM into your Curriculum. Now, if you are like me, you may be thinking, “STEAM?! I thought it was STEM! Is that A supposed to be in there? Just like so many other educational initiatives, this thing has changed before I ever learned about it in the first place!”  The A is indeed supposed to be there, and it stands for Art.

One day I was trying to convince my students that all the learning they were doing was supposed to be preparing them for whatever future jobs and life paths they may take. As you can imagine, trying to cast this vision to a room full of fourth graders was somewhat challenging, so I turned to Discovery Education Network to try and find an online resource that would help me to get my point across. I was able to find a virtual field trip that we did as a whole class where we got to “tour” the NBA home offices and learn how math and science make a daily impact on what these people do for a living. This virtual field trip hit the spot as they talked in great detail about the various aspects of math and science needed to do jobs ranging from scouting opposing teams, keeping stats for a team, creating the schedules for all the teams, and even designing the courts with the correct dimensions.

We did not just stop there with the activity. Once the video was over, I launched into a discussion with my students about the various job their parents have. We discussed how math and science impact their jobs whether it was construction work, landscaping, and many others. Eventually, we even discussed the various jobs that the students would like to have one day and how math and science are involved in those careers. This discussion was one of the highlights of the school year for me because the students were fully engaged and excited about discussing the jobs their parents have as well as their own jobs in the future.

That was a simple idea that turned out to have great impact for both my students and myself. I say that because this was one of the first activities I did with my students where we all interacted and collaborated together regarding STEAM ideas. It enabled the students to brainstorm how the math, science, and reading strategies and ideas would allow them to pursue various professions later in life.

A big characteristic of STEAM is that it can work with any curriculum that a teacher is using. STEAM is simply a new way to allow your students to learn and grow as people while addressing the academic content in a new way. During my first year of teaching, I quickly noticed that my students were bored during class as I repetitively dished out worksheets and packets on a weekly basis. I knew something had to change. In my second year of teaching, I made strides towards allowing the students to take more ownership over their learning. Allowing more time for my students to participate in collaborative work through communication and problem-solving activities was a big focus for myself.  Major characteristics of STEAM include collaboration, communication, research, problem solving, critical thinking, and creativity. No matter your experience as a classroom teacher, some simple strategies to integrate STEAM may increase your effectiveness. When integrating STEAM into your curriculum, there are three things that stick out to me the most to engage students in their learning process.

  1. Remember to keep it simple in the beginning stages. Establish clear goals for each lesson so that the students have a great understanding of the expected outcomes for the lesson. Keeping it simple also applies to the teacher in the sense of keeping simple supplies on hand that will allow you to do many different STEAM activities. Things like popsicle sticks, duct tape, string, batteries, and marshmallows are all things that can be used in multiple ways for STEAM activities. STEAM kits are also a great tool for beginning STEAM teachers to look into (http://www.blinkblink.cc/ is a great resource to find kits that may be of interest to you as a teacher).
  2. Do not simply have students use technology in the classroom and think that you are integrating STEAM correctly. Teachers must use blended learning to effectively integrate STEAM into the curriculum. Teachers must shift from teacher to student interaction to student-to-student interaction through the use of online forums, classroom discussions, and collaborative group work. Additionally, the teacher must evaluate the data they get from the various forms of technology that the students are using in order to better drive their instruction to meet the needs of the students.
  3. When done correctly, STEAM will allow the students to increase their creativity, increase their engagement, and increase their retention. What teacher wouldn’t want those things for all of their students?! That being said, the course offered by TCL is a great launch point for any teacher who is interested in integrating STEAM into their curriculum but may not know exactly where to start.

As a 4th grade teacher who has merely dabbled in STEAM integration in my own classroom, I can say that this course is one that is engaging and applicable on many levels. I look forward to exploring how to better integrate Art into my curriculum.  The course is structured so the learner gets a vivid idea of what STEAM means and why it is useful. The learner will also see firsthand examples of schools that have made incredible strides due to implementing STEAM into their curriculum.

Happy STEAMing!,

Interested in learning more about how to implement STEAM into your classroom? Check out our course: Integrating STEAM into your Curriculum


Henry Price