Now that we have the foundations of what STEAM is and why it’s important, the next step is to understand how to implement STEAM with integrity. Many schools claim to be “STEAM Schools”, and yet their model of implementation is weak or simply brushes the surface of what STEAM truly requires. Our core belief is that STEAM has a foundation of integration at its core, which means that each curricular area should be both taught in its own right, as well as connected through standards and assessments when used in tandem.
In this stage of STEAM, teachers and students explore a broad range of topics, ideas or problems in a particular content area of focus. For instance, you may begin by focusing on the Great Depression, processes that artists use, or security concerns at large sporting events. Think widely in this portion of the process, with the understanding that you will narrow into a specific piece of the topic later on. As you choose your topic and begin to move into the discovery phase, think about an essential question you would like to answer.
During the discovery phase, you’ll create a curriculum schema map about the chosen topic, idea or problem. Start by placing the chosen broad focus in the center of a piece of paper and surrounding it with everything that may influence, cause, or result from that particular topic. You’ll begin to see trends, patterns, or areas you would like to explore more deeply.
Once you have created your curricular schema map, choose one or two connected areas to your broad topic. For instance, if my topic was the the Scientific Method, I may choose digital photography and reflection as two areas that I would like to connect and explore in relationship to each other based upon an essential question. From there, a curriculum map can be created that aligns two naturally-connected standards in both content areas (science and visual art), as well as an equitable assessment for both standards being addressed.
Once your standards and assessments are aligned between your chosen content areas, a lesson can now be developed to guide students in their learning about the broader topic through the two chosen standards. This process should be inquiry driven, where students are presented with a problem or question in which they will need to learn and use content knowledge to influence the context of the situation.
Once students have moved through the lesson and completed their project or assignment, they must be able to have time to reflect and critique their own work, as well as that of their peers. This can be done through self-assessments, rubrics, portfolios, artists statements, or peer reviews. Similarly, teachers and administrators must also have time to engage in the reflection process based upon the results of the lesson process and products.
WHAT DOES STEAM LOOK LIKE?
When put into action, STEAM takes on many different characteristics. Here are a sample of things we have seen or helped to implement from high-quality STEAM initiatives:
In a STEAM initiative…
- Everything is a laboratory – invitations to explore are everywhere
- Learning is not bottled in a classroom
- Collaborative planning and intentional alignments are being created and implemented
- Assessments are aligned cognitively and authentically with all areas being addressed within the lesson or project
Looking for more? That’s why we’ve designed this site! Please explore our website, contact us with questions, connect with us to work with your school or district, or view our online resources in our store. We are here to support you on your journey to STEAM!