Educators know that the modern, relevant classroom is an evolving classroom. For the most part that’s a good thing, because it signals that changes are being made so that students are equipped for the future.
As we’ve noted before, “We are facing the 4th industrial revolution: A revolution that has to do with the internet, the digital tools, and with robotics. A revolution in which the way we interact with the world and with each other will evolve into something different, fresh and new.”
The challenge is to prepare the students who will be members of tomorrow’s society, and in many ways STEAM-based learning does that more fully than preceding models have; this opens up the door to allow kids who may not fit within the confines of STEM-based learning to explore their creative tendencies.
Create the Right Space for STEAM
Creating the right makerspace begins with the literal space provided for students. This means thoughtful consideration of the classroom: how can it best provide for an educational experience that demonstrates the methodology of STEAM? Some examples:
A computer lab. Earlier this year we pointed out, “It was Steve Jobs . . . who brought into our modern society a clear example of a neat integration between art, creativity, design and technology. More than that, he was one of the pioneers when it came to giving designers the place they deserve in processes that used to have only engineers involved.”
Thus it’s fitting to consider a computer lab integration into the classroom that will allow students to practically enjoy the tools that they’re learning in the classroom. Technology is one of the best platforms from which to recognize how the arts matter in conjunction with traditional STEM courses.
You never know when you may have a child with all the potential of Steve Jobs sitting in the classroom, and thinking about the right makerspace is one of the first ways you can begin to consider them and their future success.
Focus area. One of the primary distinctions of STEAM is that you’re asking students to do things that they may not be totally comfortable with; if you’re going to ask them to break through barriers, then you need to provide the makerspace where that can happen.
A zone in the classroom designated for quiet focus is the ultimate way to encourage students to navigate challenging intellectual hurdles; recognizing that not all students operate best in a traditional setting is another way to bolster their chances of success.
It’s also worthwhile to draw students in and allow them to participate; if you have a student that is struggling to productively complete projects, consider asking them what they would need altered in your classroom to be more successful.
Utilize the Space for Relevant Work
The physical space is only half the equation of a functional, successful STEAM makerspace. The other half, is the actual work that’s being done by students. This half, in a lot of ways, becomes the bread and butter of the successful STEAM learning experience.
“STEAM is an educational approach to learning that uses Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics as access points for guiding student inquiry, dialogue, and critical thinking. The end results are students who take thoughtful risks, engage in experiential learning, persist in problem-solving, embrace collaboration, and work through the creative process,” says Arts Integration Specialist Susan Riley.
You can do this by incorporating projects that always integrate at least two components of STEAM learning. It’s also worthwhile to begin building relevance to students’ lives now. Foster conversation with your students about how the projects that work on today can actively equip them for their futures.
Consider this list of holiday STEAM projects from Concordia University for young students, which manages to do just that. It includes tasks such as a snowstorm in a jar, where even preschool aged kids can incorporate something.
Remember the Reasoning
STEAM learning has two distinct layers of results. Not only does it allow students right now to achieve their best and fullest potential, but it also provides a meaningful platform for them to stand on in the future.
STEAM is a relatively new approach, and yet already researchers are looking into how it can immediately impact things like emotional intelligence in students, which is no small thing in children.
When those tools are paired with the ability to thrive in STEM settings, for many students, the world opens up, and in a lot of ways that’s the entire goal of education. STEAM students matter, because they’re the ones who are and will be equipped for that 4th industrial revolution.
When we consider the new challenges brought on by the revolution, it’s clear why we must be adjusting our classrooms. Issues like cybersecurity and data management already make headlines daily, both for what they provide and for the risks they inject into society.
In their overview of the cybersecurity industry, East Coast Polytechnic Institute points out that in that one novel career field alone, “The industry is growing by more than 37 percent per year. While this rate of growth is already far higher than most careers, all indications… are that it will grow even more rapidly over the next decade.”
These interconnected benefits make it clear why educators who invest in STEAM-based makerspaces are teachers who are investing in both the personal health and the professional fulfillment of their students. It’s not merely a passing fad in education, it’s a method of equipping individuals to have fully-realized potential.
There’s no rush for a child to know exactly who they will be after they leave your classroom, but there is value in teaching them that they are the most important participants in their future. Their ability to invest in the things they’re interested in and passionate about is what will transform the rest of their lives.
This article was written by Devin Morrisey, who first connected withCoderZ via Twitter. Devin writes from his garage in Daly City, CA, stopping periodically to build robot cars with his nephew. He is a stark advocate for technological integration in educational policy and a good friend of the CoderZ team.