What’s more fun than a STEAM Design Challenge? There’s so many opportunities for hands-on learning and experimentation. And the fact that students are the drivers of the lesson is even better.
But how do you set one up and make sure it’s effective? If we’re not careful, these challenges can be just another arts and craft project. The key, as always, is the intention with which you’re creating and using the challenge. Here’s a guide for making these STEAM Design Challenges creative and useful.
Before you begin any challenge, make sure you have the following:
- Dedicated space for materials
- Labeled organization bins
- Variety of materials and found parts
- Safety rules clearly posted
- Anchor charts if necessary (for example: the different types of attachments)
Your challenge should be grounded in curiosity, problem-solving and creativity. Here’s some challenge prompts that will instantly engage your students:
- Build an unsinkable boat.
- Create a piece of furniture without any attachments.
- Create a sculpture that makes music in the wind.
- What problem can you solve using just the materials on this table?
- Design a shoe inspired by nature. How might you use this in various habitats?
Framing your challenge with naturally-aligned processes creates a meaningful experience. Here’s some sample alignments that may help you get started:
|STEM AREAS||ARTS AREAS|
Engineering Design Process
|Elements of Art, Music, Theater, Design or Dance|
|Artists’ Habits of Mind|
|The Creative Process|
|Media Arts Standards|
To make this even more helpful to you, we’re providing two free handouts below. The first is a one-pager that you can use when planning your STEAM Design Challenge.
The second is a student project planner. You can give this to each student as they work on their design to document their progress along the way.
Susan Riley is the founder and President of EducationCloset.com. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, Common Core State Standards, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and Arts and the Common Core.
Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter.