From STEM to STEAM: How to Incorporate the Arts Into Your STEM Curriculum
Two common—and timely—buzzwords in education are the acronyms STEM and STEAM. STEM, as you may know, is short for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
Educators in the United States have begun to incorporate STEM education into their curriculum to help students acquire important knowledge and skills, as well as critical thinking, innovation, and problem-solving abilities. STEAM adds art to the mix. Proponents of STEAM believe that incorporating the arts into education can nurture creativity. They also believe it can make STEM subjects more engaging.
So how can you move from STEM to STEAM in your home?
- Use the arts as a mechanism for understanding
The arts are an excellent way to help your student commit new information to memory and form connections between concepts. The arts can even make an abstract idea more concrete—and thus easier to grasp. For example, your child might memorize the times tables by writing a song about them. You can dance to explore molecules in different states of matter, or to learn about an abstract concept like force in a tangible way. You can race marbles that have been dipped in paint to visually examine speed and acceleration. Or draw or paint to note the biological structure of a flower or the earth itself.
- Use the arts to relate curriculum to daily life
Is your student a member of a local band or choir? Does he or she participate in music lessons within your community? If so, STEAM offers you the perfect opportunity to connect STEM to real life—simply teach fractions through the lens of musical notes or rhythm. Relating STEM curriculum to daily life can take many forms. If you and your family travel often, exchanging money in a foreign country can be an excellent chance to discuss proportions. So, too, can cooking.
- Use the arts to express what your child has learned
This is one of the most direct ways to incorporate the arts into your STEM curriculum. Once your student has become familiar with a new STEM concept or skill, ask him or her to show others what he or she has learned via art. For instance, a middle school-age child could write and illustrate a children’s book that explains engineering concepts in simple terms (perhaps for a younger sibling). A high school student could sculpt a model to demonstrate his or her understanding of a specific body system. The possibilities are endless!
Even though homeschooling families are under no obligation to follow the various trends of education, it can be very helpful to familiarize yourself with them so that you can incorporate those that suit your goals, and your learning and teaching styles.
Today’s students may one day take on careers that are unknown in our present world. As a result, learning science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, and developing higher-order thinking and technical skills will serve them well in the future. Plus, incorporating the arts into STEM education is a great way to make STEM come alive.
Dana Elmore is a contributing writer for UniversityTutor.com, the world’s largest global marketplace for finding independent tutors.