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STEM Education? STEAM Education? What's That?

An Egg Drop Experiment...take 2.

Why Parents Should Care

The STEM acronym stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, with Art representing the additional letter in STEAM. You’ve likely heard these terms, but what is the thinking behind this educational philosophy?

The essential element of STEM and STEAM education is integration, a philosophy of teaching subjects and skills that reflect real life and the ways in which we work and solve problems every day. Instead of teaching subjects separately, lessons offer an integrated and interdisciplinary approach with a focus on projects and inquiry-based learning. Educators find that this approach resonates with students, engaging their interest in and enthusiasm for learning.

Of equal significance is that STEM/STEAM learning embraces the hallmarks of a 21st century education: proficiency in critical and creative thinking, the ability to communicate effectively, and a commitment to collaboration.

Experts agree that the jobs of the future will require an interdisciplinary approach, a broad range of skill sets, and an enthusiasm for exploration. Therefore, STEM/STEAM learning will position students optimally for success in their chosen professions.

What does STEM/STEAM look like in the classroom? For the preschool set, teachers tell us that candy science experiments are always a crowd pleaser. Mints become fireworks, and pop rocks explode into rockets. Real world phenomena offer rich opportunities as well: creating a cloud in a jar or an oil spill, complete with a few feathers, and trying to clean it up. Or building your own jellybean structure using toothpicks. These activities incorporate science, math, engineering, and art/design.

Elementary school students are enthusiastic participants in STEM/STEAM projects. Creating an herb, vegetable or rain garden will prompt learning about botany, environmental science, design, and cooking. Legos, perennially popular, offer opportunities to build structures, vehicles, and robots, and invite students to learn about spatial design, mechanics, geometry, and engineering. The creation of gingerbread structures is engaging and fun, and yields an understanding of science, math, design, and the chemistry of cooking.

The classic “dragon fire” experiment is deeply engaging for middle schoolers. The multi-colored flames are very impressive and invite a discussion of chemical and physical reactions as well as design. Edible stained-glass creations offer insight into science and design, as well as a snack! And the creation and construction of egg drop landers, which will allow eggs to remain intact after being dropped from a significant height, require an understanding of science, engineering, and design, and promotes collaboration.

High school age students appreciate a measure of autonomy and the opportunity to focus on issues that are of significance to them, and educators might invite them to create their own multi-week project to identify a solution to a real-world problem. Crime scene investigation projects are popular with this group, as is a program about video game physics that uses Angry Birds as a learning platform. And zombies, always popular, are an excellent gateway to explore survival issues with an integrated focus on math, science, and technology.

STEM/STEAM education allows students to learn in a setting where they have the opportunity to identify their interests, embrace their areas of strength and challenge, engage with their peers, and develop an ongoing passion for exploration, so positioning them for success as they navigate the world.

By Annemiek Young

Annemiek Young, Bennett Education Consultant, Director of Private Client Relations Emeritus, and good friend , is a regular contributor to our blog.

Bennett International Education Consultancy works directly with hundreds of families each year across the globe. We support families by helping them make informed decisions about the best-fit schools for their children; with our guidance, they secure placement in preschools, private day schools, public/state schools, boarding schools, colleges & universities, including schools with particular programs, such as special needs support.


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