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Portrait of two teenage boys and two teenage girls in a science laboratory

 

STEAM education is sweeping the nation.

School districts are scrambling to provide programs from robotics competitions to coding games while teachers filter through thousands of Pinterest pins in search of quality STEAM activities.

Parents are not far behind, investing in board games and science kits with a STEAM seal of approval.

STEM, which stands for an educational focus on science, tech, engineering and math, has recently been changed to STEAM, to include the arts.

In an online article on Times Higher Education, Professor Martin Boehm of IE Business School in Spain made a startling prediction stating; “80 percent of jobs that will exist in 2025 don’t exist today; we have to prepare our students and graduates for a world that’s essentially not possible to prepare them for.”

Teachers are preparing students for jobs that do not exist today and for a world where technology including artificial intelligence, will dominate day-to-day life. In short, students need to gain more respect for independent learning. We need to be educating our elementary students for the workplace of 2030 and beyond, which can be done through STEAM.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, the number of STEM/STEAM jobs in the United States will grow by 14 percent from 2010 to 2020, growth that the BLS terms as “much faster” than the national average of 5-8 percent across all job sectors.

What can be done at home to inspire STEAM?

Parents can encourage children to channel their inner engineer through a number of activities. Recycle the The Times-Tribune for a newspaper tower challenge. Roll the newspaper and secure with tape and let them build. Use a ruler to measure their tower to incorporate math. Another simple STEAM activity is to play sink or float. The object is to explore the density of selected items. Just fill a few Tupperware containers with water and grab some items from around the house such as plastic, aluminum foil, apples, oranges, toy blocks, paper, bathtub toys, plastic forks, rubber balls, soda-bottle caps, pencils, erasers and sponges. Young children grasp concepts through exploration and trial and error, so they should learn STEAM concepts at their own pace and in ways that are natural to them. A great resource for finding simple science experiments is Sciencebob.com.

Learning with technology can be done on Code.org, a website devoted to teaching coding with free lessons and guided videos. Scratch Jr. is a free app that children as young as 5 can be using to learn code. Legos or k’nex building blocks can be used to provide hands-on learning opportunities that encourage scientific inquiry, investigation, creativity and experimentation. Both websites offer STEAM activities to challenge kids. The Sphero Robot is designed to inspire curiosity, creativity, and invention through connected play and coding and kids don’t realize they are learning because it’s fun. A favorite for the arts concept in STEAM is 3Doodler 3D printing pen, in which plastic comes out of the pen then is cooled by an integrated fan and solidifies right in front of you. You can draw on any surface and lift it up into the air to create your own 3D objects. It’s a favorite for my kids.

Don’t worry about giving too much instruction. Children are natural scientists. Let them explore and discover, then reflect on what they discovered by asking how and why that happened. The goal is to teach “21st-century skills” which refers to skills such as collaboration, digital literacy, critical thinking and problem-solving that students need to learn to thrive in today’s world. We all need to reflect on how we learned best during school. Most of us remember the times when we were able to experiment, dissect or bake. We need to look back to the future.

Marty McFly would STEAM ahead and we should, too.