STEAM or STEM
It’s all the buzz words in our education world these days.
It certainly is NOT a bad word either. I think it’s a way to revolutionize the way we teach our children to think and do.
Many of you know that my husband is an educator. He teaches in the upper school at a private Christian school in Covington, LA. He loves it. He has gone from teaching physics to being over the Innovation Center, which in essence is putting STEAM into action for the high school students. To say he loves it is an understatement.
All of that to say I hear these terms of STEAM and STEM quite often in our conversations…I pick his brain from time to time on what it really is and how we can begin even now to incorporate it into activities for our little one.
So here I am to try to help you understand what these buzz words are all about.
What does STEAM or STEM stand for?
It’s an acronym for:
Science: Think of it as the resources we have to use as we study the other four parts. Biology (things we can observe and use in nature). Chemistry (describes the material properties of any resource we can find or make). Physics (a way to describe how materials move in relation to each other)
Technology: Don’t think technology as a device (i.e. a phone) it’s a simple thing, like levers and wheels, or anything that you can think of that helps you accomplish a task.
Engineering: Problem Solving aka a process of solving problems.
Arts: Creativity, design, imagination and making the world a better looking place
Math: A language that helps explain the science, technology, engineering or art in the process. (see below for more about the process!)
For the sake of future reference we’ll always refer to it as STEAM – that’s my husbands preference as a teacher as well as mine with a preschooler!
How do you incorporate STEAM?
Find ways to teach your child using hands on learning to build skills and provoking them to think. Think of pairing two of these ideas together in an art, in a learning activity, in a building project, in science or even in counting for little ones.
How do you know if it’s truly a STEAM activity or not?
If you are combining at least two of the above mentions into one learning activity. So make sure you have Art and Math combined…or Engineering and Math. If you can incorporate more that’s wonderful but you need to have at least two of the ways combined to make it a STEAM activity.
What if I’m teaching STEAM wrong!?!?! Oh no!
Guess what…there really isn’t a wrong way and that’s a beautiful reminder when teaching your children. In other words, challenge your child to see how tall they can build a tower of alphabet letters. (see our activity here) Some children may go vertical with it, other children may lay it flat – like my little one did. It’s ok. It is about the process of building, designing and creating that is important….now the perfect how it’s done.
How in the world do you do STEAM with preschoolers?
I always find our time of a STEAM activity is more successful when I first let her have time to explore on her own. Giving her the materials we’ll be using to explore and experiment first. Once she’s had the time to do this I’ll then introduce the “challenge”
What is the process of STEAM?
For example, I am teaching our preschooler a simple boat challenge, in the context of constructing something that floats and holds toy animals. Here is the process.
- Investigate: Take a look at your materials, ask questions and test. Does this Float? Yes or no? which leads to
- Discover: At this stage you have a list of items that float and items that do not, based upon their material properties (Science connection). Not that you need to explain the connection at this point, but that you are guiding them to observe the differences in the material world around them.
- Connect: Can be made in a number of ways, but try to relate it to some memory that they may have, a day at the lake, Papa’s fishing boat, or in our case a Sunday School story of Noah’s Ark.
- Create: This is sometimes the hardest step to watch as a teacher, because we want to see success on the first try, but remember, building something that floats is not the end goal. Let them try and create on their own. You may have to help with some construction steps, but encourage the result to be their plan or idea.
- Reflect: Here is were you get to discuss your observations. This worked Why? or what caused a leak? Always try to give time to see if they could try again and do it better.
If you can break down these five areas for every activity in your mind as the teacher to help your child or student do each of these steps your process for STEAM will be much more successful.
We are a husband and wife team, pairing our strengths together to teach our preschooler in the most fun and engaging way we possibly can. The mister is a high school educator at Northlake Christian school in Covington Louisiana and over the Innovation Center, which is all things STEAM. I am a SAHM that blogs pretty much everything we do in our little paradise, from what we eat, to where we travel to how we teach our little one. We hope you are inspired to incorporate STEAM into learning with your children.