How to Apply STEAM Learning in Every School Subject

by Matter & Form on September 12, 2019

The STEAM learning movement is a new way of teaching science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics as an integrated subject. Instead of lecturing on these disciplines independently from one another, STEAM aims to break down the silos that separate them, to create an entirely new system of learning. And while there are countless benefits to embracing the STEAM pedagogy in full, the unfortunate reality is that schools and teachers are often constrained by institutional limitations beyond their control.  

That said, there are ways to introduce STEAM curriculums slowly by gradually tweaking the traditional classroom structure. If you’re an educator that wants to implement some of STEAM’s core teachings, but lack the freedom to rewrite the entire curriculum, here’s how you can start. Read on to learn how to apply STEAM learning in every school subject.  

1. Subject: English.
STEAM Solution: Project-based Learning

In humanities-based subjects like English, Project-Based Learning — where students learn about a subject through the experience of solving an open-ended problem — is often lost. Instead, assignments like essays and readings are all students get to engage with. However, in our What Lies Beneath lesson plan, students are able to use modelling, 3D scanning and printing to support an explanation of satire, sarcasm and exaggeration. By using the crosscutting concepts of system models, as well as speaking and listening, students will be able to stimulate interactions within different systems and follow a complex multistep process of experimentation. 

This project-based learning will analyze a case in which grasping a view requires distinguishing what is directly stated in a text from what is really meant. This crucial distinction between revealed text and subtext is an integral part of English literature studies. The What Lies Beneath lesson plan uses STEAM to recontextualize this distinction. 

2. Subject: History.
STEAM Solution: Exposure to Emerging Technologies 

Looking for an exciting way to bring history off the proverbial dusty old textbook page and into a lesson plan that encourages engagement from students? Try educational apps and VR headsets to let students instantly adventure into educational spaces that would otherwise be impossible to explore. Through VR headsets such as the Google Cardboard and educational apps like Google Expeditions, teachers can transport students to virtual locations and take them on historic field trips without ever leaving the classroom. To really help transport students back in time, archaeological VR companies like Lithodomos VR can show what ruins looked like before they were ruins, giving students an immersive 360-degree virtual sightseeing experience.

To learn about how the Matter & Form 3D Scanner can be used in historical applications, read how this undergraduate student used 3D scanning to piece ancient art together.

3. Subject: Science.
STEAM Solution: The Engineering Design Process

Upgrade your average science or high school biology class project with the Engineering Design Process, which takes students from identifying a problem or a design challenge to actively creating and developing a solution. In this process, students try their own research-based ideas, take different approaches, make mistakes, learn from them, and try again with a focus on developing solutions. 

In our Secrets in Skulls lesson plan, students use modelling, 3D scanning and printing to illustrate the evolutionary history of humans. Students will construct an explanation based on evidence for how natural selection leads to a process of adaptation for populations and evaluate the different lines of evidence. Students will be able to see that changes in environmental conditions can cause a variety of different ripple effects, such as an increase in the number of individuals of some species, the emergence of new species over time and the extinction of other species. 

4. Subject: Geography.
STEAM Solution: Real-World Application 

A central aim of the STEAM methodology is encouraging students to come up with creative solutions for real-world problems. In a world where issues like globalization and climate change are top-of-mind, geography projects can prepare, inspire and motivate students to face the pressing challenges of their world head-on. For instance, this project teaches students to prevent a coastline from soil erosion by building a seawall and calculating wave energy to determine the best materials for the job. 

Elsewhere, this project can get students involved in urban planning by getting them to solve the design needs of a city by identifying common issues, navigating transportation, environmental concerns and overcrowding. The ultimate goal is for students to come up with design solutions for problems that every growing city faces. When students learn within these contexts, they can clearly see the genuine impact of their learning and the positive outcomes it can have. This kind of relevant skill-building encourages engagement, taking students from groans of, “When will I ever use this?” to a genuine connection between theory and application. 

5. Subject: Math.
STEAM Solution: An Engaging Context

It’s quite easy to get cynical when thinking about how the vast majority of us were taught math in school. Quite commonly, it primarily concerns completing page after page of problems in a notebook with very little context to how these elegant problems and proofs affect and inform reality. Enter a STEAM-friendly Math lesson such as our Lost in Space activity. In this lesson plan, students still gain exposure to the basic teachings of volume and surface area equations, but do so within the context of creating a model of a habitation for survival on an alien planet! Does it get any cooler than that? In this lesson plan, students will apply their knowledge of volume and surface area to use a computer simulation to model the impact of proposed solutions. 

Few classrooms can benefit more from the STEAM pedagogy than the math classroom. Many students struggle with abstraction and disengage from a subject that is growing ever more important. With STEAM, math becomes something that students can see, touch, and actively experience. 

Apply STEAM Learning Into Your Classroom Today!

While you might not have the freedom to fully revolutionize your school, you can make each of your current subjects as STEAM friendly as possible in the meantime by: 

  • Using Project-Based Learning rather than rote memorization to encourage students to be creators rather than passive observers. 
  • Exposing students to emerging technologies in any context you can. 
  • Remembering the Engineering Design Process and allowing students to experiment and learn from mistakes. 
  • Providing a real-world context and application to all projects, exposing students to relevant social, economic, and environmental problems. 
  • Giving students something to get excited about with a hands-on, tangible learning experience.

To find out more about how to apply STEAM learning into your classroom, and how the Matter & Form 3D Scanner can become a favourite tool in your classroom, visit our blog or browse our website today.