STEAM: Empowering Students with Life Skills

by Eileen Murphy, Grade 5 Math-Science Teacher

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The greatest gifts that we can give students during the elementary years are a driving curiosity, a belief in their abilities, a thirst for knowledge, and a passion to grow.  The Grade Five Model and Design Unit included all of these components. The lessons systematically led students through investigations that included guided inquiry and the creative process, as students took ownership of their learning. The summative project for this unit was for teams to present a design for the Grade five STEAM Fair.

Throughout the process, students applied the information they learned about science and engineering to solve a problem, and then collaboratively worked to figure out the best solution.  Experiencing trial and error first hand, as well as taking risks, were essential steps of their STEAM process.

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The final designs ranged from reusable erasers to a custom-made bottle that stores both food and water.  Students showcased and explained their process and projects at a STEAM fair that took place on November 8. Fifth-grade parents, students, and teachers from other LS classrooms attended to learn more about the STEAM process and projects, and celebrate the accomplishments.

Afterwards, students were given the opportunity to reflect on both their design and process:

Learning science using STEAM is different from normal learning. You combine many subjects into one, and you begin to understand how they connect.” Bi Sa

I loved my STEAM fair project. I created something with my friends, used tools and I created something different. I loved not having direction from a teacher. We had lessons before our project, but we could design anything.” Julia Chang

“My STEAM project helped to get me out of my comfort zone. I also got to learn my friend’s skills and that made the project even better. “ Andrew Palmer

STEAM education is crucial to educate and prepare the global workforce of the next generation. According to the  US Department of Education, the number of STEAM jobs in the United States will grow by 14% from 2010 to 2020, a growth that is much faster than the national average of 5-8% across all job sectors (What is Steam, 2017).

Skills such as asking questions, problem-solving, time management, thinking creatively, and working collaboratively were all integrated throughout the STEAM process. These skills equip students with a toolbox to prepare them to tackle the challenges of higher education and the real world – no matter where their life journey may take them.

As we move forward with the curriculum renewal cycle in Science next year, and begin to deepen our understanding of the NGSS Standards, we’ll be exploring ways that we can integrate more STEAM education into student learning.

Citations:

What is STEAM and why is it important? (2017, Jan 2) Left Brain Craft Brain: Retrieved  Nov 10, 2017 from, https://leftbraincraftbrain.com/what-is-steam-and-why-is-steam-important/

Ende, Fred (2017, Nov 8) Gaining Steam Smart Beliefs Retrieved from http://smartbrief.com/original/2017/11/gaining-steam?utm_source=brief

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