Teenage couple on a roller coaster rideSTEAM is the integration of art into STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). Simple concept, yet difficult to execute. Merriam Webster’s Dictionary defines integration as “to combine (two or more things) to form or create something”. Middle school girls learn using language arts based curriculum while transforming from a child to an adult. Difficult times, emotional roller-coaster.

While researching for my dissertation, I have noticed several hundred new “STEAM Academy’s” emerging in school districts around the country. How do these schools without experience in STEAM implement a STEAM curriculum? Has anyone researched the methodologies or pedagogies of these schools? How are we to guarantee these schools are successful if we don’t have STEAM standards? The total immersion of an integrated STEAM curriculum allows the subjects to merge, to meta-morphize into a congealed subject, without exclusion of one subject. This combination is the key to eliminate Hannah’s standard answer “I hate math class!”

STEAM is not adding art to enhance core subjects, art labs, art carts or art electives. STEAM is at the heart of the curriculum and requires educators to reform school structure of six 50-minute classes in separate rooms. Integration requires a teacher that can deliver a STEAM lesson based upon a block system structure. For instance, first block is 180 minutes long on Mondays with two smaller blocks in the afternoon for electives.

STEAM is the integration of ART, COLLABORATIVE LEARNING, and FLIPPED CLASSROOM with science, technology, engineering, and math curriculum to bring creative and engaging concepts into STEM. STEAM uses core subjects, combined with design concepts, philosophies and teaching methodologies that interest middle school girls.

Art There is an old saying “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand” ~ Confucius. Schools today usually lecture to students sitting in seats lined up in rows. They sit and hear what the teachers say and walk out the door and forget. Integrating art into STEM allows the students to do and understand the lessons.  Art is the thread to weave all subjects together into a cohesive lesson.

Collaborative Learning is teamwork, similar to how corporations function today. The ability to work collaboratively will be even more important in the future than today. Companies will be looking for well-rounded STEAM educated employees. The traditional single office of the past has been replaced with team sharing of space and the office space is more like a playground than an office. These new designs allow collaboration for product design.

Flipped Classroom is a relatively new style of teaching that can be very effective with STEAM learning. The world history class I teach has been flipped and students watch a variety of videos and read online stories about ancient civilizations. In the classroom the other day, I got out 20,000 Legos and had collaborative groups build an ancient structure of their choice. Instead of just the standard lecture, students had to seek the pieces they needed, learn about construction, engineering, math, and art to construct a structure. Mina and Sarah were talking, “the exercise made me realize that constructing a piece of art is not as easy as it looks. You have to get the right pieces in order for it to look the way you want it to be”. This understanding of ancient architecture will now carry through to their lives and the connections they make in school will finally matter to the girls. STEAM is the future.

Deborah Gustlin


Image credit: http://www.visualphotos.com/image/2×2561286/teenage_couple_on_a_roller_coaster_ride