You have probably heard of the learning acronym STEM, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Over the last 20 years, the demand for job seekers with degrees in these fields has skyrocketed. In the US, for example, STEM occupations have grown at double the rate compared to all other roles. As a result, school curriculums have been changed to place more emphasis on these subjects.

However, it has recently become apparent that this kind of curriculum excludes a crucial element, which is key to developing soft skills like creativity, critical thinking, and emotional intelligence: art.

A curriculum that includes science, technology, engineering, art, and math is known as a STEAM curriculum.

In this post, we will tell you everything you need to know about STEAM curricula, including how they are built, why they are essential, and how you can implement STEAM learning in your own classroom.

The core components of a STEAM curriculum

According to the Institute for Arts Integration and STEAM, the most effective STEAM models are based around the following principles:

1. Integrated learning, which intentionally connects standards, assessments, and lesson design and implementation.

2. Instruction in two or more standards from Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, and the Arts, in which the subjects are taught and assessed in and through each other.

3. Process-based learning, which encourages inquiry and collaboration from students.

4. Utilizing and leveraging the integrity of the arts themselves.

So, in order to design an effective STEAM curriculum, you will need to think about:

  • Collaborative planning, involving teachers from each discipline.
  • Adjusting the timetable to accommodate this new style of teaching and learning.
  • Training for all staff on the STEAM model.
  • Aligning and unpacking standards and assessments.
  • Introducing students to this new method of instruction.

Why is it important to study art alongside STEM subjects?

Art is a great way of getting children to engage with what they are learning. Indeed, Dr. Kristin Cook, Associate Dean at Bellarmine’s Annsley Frazier Thornton School of Education, highlighted the humanizing aspect of the STEAM curriculum, saying that, “Incorporating the A in STEAM—art—brings in personal expression, empathy, meaning-making and the purpose of what you’re learning.”

Thus, adding art to the curriculum is intended to enhance—rather than replace—existing STEM frameworks.

You might be wondering how these disciplines fit together, since the arts and sciences are so often presented in opposition to one another. One is a highly creative subject, while the other is based in fact. However, being creative does not mean you’re not also capable of analytical reasoning, and vice versa.

In order to be a successful leader in the modern workplace, you have to be able to utilize both sides of your brain. A STEAM curriculum can help with this because it teaches students to:

1. Take thoughtful risks. Devising new strategies involves a certain amount of creativity and innovation, because you are looking at the future of your business. What do you want it to look like? How are you going to get there? But to determine the risks involved with any new venture, you will also need a strong foundational knowledge of mathematics. This will allow you to calculate the probability of the outcome either way and determine whether or not that risk is worth it.

2. Engage with course materials. An arts-inclusive curriculum makes learning more fun for children, who are more engaged with their lessons as a result. The National Assembly of State Arts Agencies has reported on the many benefits of student engagement, including improved scores in standardized tests, increased participation in community or volunteering projects, and a more positive approach to education overall.

3. Become adept at problem-solving. As they develop new technical and artistic skills, students will learn to approach tasks and potential challenges with a positive attitude. The STEAM curriculum is designed to give students a diverse array of skills with which to meet these challenges head-on. 

4. Think outside of the box. The ability to think outside the box will also help with problem-solving because it encourages students to approach tasks and challenges from different angles. They will develop this skill through interactive learning activities and simply being curious about the world around them.

It is worth noting, as well, that there is some common ground between art and science. And highlighting the crossovers between topics will lead to a greater understanding among your students.

According to Maureen Creegan Quinquis, an associate professor at Lesley University’s Graduate School of Education, one of the most significant benefits of STEAM learning is that it’s interdisciplinary, and there are many ways of approaching the same topic. This means that students with different learning styles have the same opportunities to succeed in a STEAM classroom. Furthermore, encouraging them to work together on group projects will promote peer learning and collaboration. Teamwork is a vital skill to have in the professional world.

If you have read our recent article on important leadership skills and their benefits, you will know that this, and all the other benefits of STEAM learning outlined above, are crucial skills for future leaders to develop. Therefore, students should study art alongside STEM subjects because it will prepare them for working at a senior level in almost any industry.

How to implement STEAM learning in the classroom:

1. Utilize digital tools. This will help engage your students even in more artistic subjects, like music or writing.

2. Embrace individual learning styles. Taking a more creative approach to technical subjects like science and math will encourage more students to participate in class activities.  

3. Take a multidimensional approach to learning. By getting them to use a combination of creative and analytical skills, you will help your students gain a better understanding of the topic you are teaching.

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