STEAM in a High school classroom

by Matter & Form on October 11, 2019

Many recognize STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) as an important advancement in the education system that will increase job opportunities for students, teach real-world skills and redefine how we approach education. But where do educators unfamiliar with the actual logistics of this new trend even start? And how exactly do you implement high-tech tools or rewrite curriculums within an antiquated education system? If you’re an educator who wants to bring STEAM into your classroom but just doesn’t know where to start, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to implement STEAM in a high school classroom.

Step 1: Get Everybody On Board With STEAM in Your High School Classroom

Before introducing a new curriculum or expecting teachers to teach STEAM content they might not have training in, take time at the beginning of the process to bring all your staff on board. When rallying any hesitant staff or teachers to embrace the STEAM pedagogy in your school, it’s important to remember to:

Take It Slowly: Make your implementation of STEAM slow, giving everyone time to adapt to major changes and technological advancements. Expose teachers to the core concepts of STEAM with tools that they are comfortable with, such as educational apps on their own smartphones, and encourage them to continuously establish a link between the subjects of science, technology, engineering, arts and math.

Showcase STEAM’s Potential: It’s important to frame STEAM as a worthwhile learning pursuit rather than a time-consuming change that the teaching staff have to endure. Use case studies to showcase the success of STEAM in the classroom.

For example, teacher Markus Hartnett undertook a 3D printing project with 200 fourth and fifth graders, where students were heavily immersed in the task of building a prototype, revising it, testing it and gathering feedback from fellow students. The students’ mission was to colonize a new planet, and they came up with clay designs and put them into 3D software. Markus stated that the results were very positive, “for [the students] to see their thoughts put into action, the expressions on their faces were incredible.” Markus also notes that “3D printing is a great tool to ease the fear of failure, as a student can design a prototype, see how it works and if it fails, they can modify their design and print another one.”

Step 2: Tweak Your Individual Subjects

To make the process more seamless, try implementing STEAM lessons into the curricula for existing subjects. It’s becoming increasingly possible to tweak traditional subjects by incorporating:

Project-Based Learning: With project-based learning, students learn about a subject through the experience of solving an open-ended problem, rather than relying on rote memorization. This encourages students to be creators rather than passive observers. Humanities-based subjects like English should implement these techniques, as this is where Project-Based Learning is often lost.

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. Students analyze what a text directly states versus what the text means. This crucial distinction between revealed text and subtext is an integral part of English literature studies. The “What Lies Beneath” lesson plan uses technology to re-contextualize this distinction.

The Engineering Design Process: The Engineering Design Process 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 all over again with a focus on developing solutions.

Upgrade your average science or high school biology class project with our Secrets in Skulls lesson plan, which allows students to use modelling, 3D scanning and printing to illustrate the evolutionary history of humans. Students construct an explanation for how natural selection leads to a process of adaptation for populations and evaluate the different lines of evidence. They 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.

Step 3: Implement STEAM Tools & Technology in the High School Classroom

Once you’ve brought your teachers on board, it’s time to start bringing in STEM-specific tools and technology. Despite the lack of focus on the arts, STEM learning forms the basis for a STEAM curriculum. These two pedagogies are fundamentally linked by the tools they use and their learning practises . These new cutting-edge teaching tools can literally take learning off the textbook page and to real life:

Augmented & Virtual Reality: Augmented Reality (AR) works by projecting a 3D digital object into real-world physical space by means of a smartphone lens or tablet, allowing students to explore the object from all angles. For example, students can learn about the human body through interactive lungs, hearts or brains.

Conversely, virtual reality (VR) utilizes 360-degree images to replicate the visual experience of seeing an object or destination from the first-person perspective. Using educational apps and a VR headset, students can 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 or scientific field trips without ever having to leave the classroom.

3D Printers and Scanners: 3D Printers and scanners are an excellent, cost-effective way to implement STEAM into the classroom curriculum. 3D technology is an enriching teaching tool that promotes imagination, creation and engagement that enables students to leverage their creativity and innovation. The design process starts with a 3D scan, progresses through an adjustment period in the 3D modelling software before it’s 3D printed for testing and iteration. This step-by-step process is the real-world embodiment of STEAM used by many professions, from the obvious like engineering to the not-so-obvious ones like fashion design. 3D technology effortlessly blend the elements of STEAM to empower students aged 10 through 18 on their individual creative learning journeys.

Step 4: Develop a Makerspace Where High School Students Can Invent, Learn and Share

Makerspaces — also known as hackerspaces, hackspaces or fablabs — are collaborative, creative spaces where students can gather together to make DIY projects, invent, learn and share ideas. Importantly, these spaces position students as producers rather than just consumers and encourages them to learn from their own active engagement with raw materials. Above all, Maker pedagogies promote important principles such as inquiry, play, imagination, innovation, critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration and personalized learning. When creating a designated school room, library or classroom station there are several things to consider:

Space: Decisions about what to include in your makerspace will depend on what space is available in the school and who will be using the space. Most schools are setting up makerspaces in resource centres, libraries and computer labs.

Budget: While many high-cost makerspace classroom kits are available for purchase, there are also low-cost or home-made alternatives worth consideration.

Tools & Materials: Determining the purpose of your makerspace is a good starting place to decide which tools and materials will be the best investment. For instance, if you want to create a space focused around the arts, opt for a 3D printer, 3D scanner and/or laser cutter. However if you want students to practise circuit work, try integrating paper-based circuits and Raspberry Pi microcontrollers.

Implementing a makerspace into your school will not only rally students of all genders, ethnicities and backgrounds to participate in STEAM activities, it will also instil the idea that every student has the potential to become an inventor and innovator.

Finally, Get Started with These Free Detailed Lesson Plans & Educational Resources

Download our six detailed lesson plans once your ready to implement STEAM in a high school classroom. From creating a model of habitation on an alien planet to illustrating human evolution, these lessons are an exciting and effective way to guide classroom activities that take away any additional prep for teachers.

Implementing STEAM in a high school classroom can be an overwhelmingly large task. That said, it certainly doesn’t have to happen overnight. Making these gradual chances is an excellent way to make it a reality. If you’d like to learn more about the STEAM education movement, and the limitless possibilities it has for enhancing student learning, visit our blog or browse our website today.

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