For almost two decades now, the academic world has largely stood together in favour of deepening education in the STEM fields — Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. These were the skillsets identified as lacking in students but most necessary for the working world of the 21st Century. However, in recent years, there has been a push away from pure STEM, and towards the introduction of Arts to the mix. Thus, the worldwide adoption of a new acronym: “STEAM”. This does not mean taking time away from the core of STEM and reallocating it to explicit arts education. Instead, it is about incorporating skills which are embedded in the arts as a tool within the existing STEM fields.
STEAM Education defines the term as “Science and Technology interpreted through Engineering and the Arts, based in Mathematical elements”
STEAM focuses on problem-solving and making connections between various concepts. The best STEM curriculums already integrate the arts. Hence, STEAM is not an entirely new idea, it is simply that the more deliberate and calculated use of the arts in education is just now gaining traction.
SRT’s Learning and Engagement Manager, Paul Adams, champions STEAM as a learning tool which motivates students towards a greater likelihood of success in STEM fields by engaging their innate strengths. By offering more diversity in learning techniques, arts integration makes STEM fields more appealing to all sorts of learners, regardless of their natural inclinations.
To show how arts can be integrated, SRT was happy to be a part of the Preschool STEAM Learning Festival held at the Science Centre Singapore from the 25thto 28thof July. It was a lively event aimed at engaging parents, educators, and children. Throughout the festival, there were a multitude of STEAM-based workshops, hands-on activities designed for kids, and showcases by some of the participating preschools.
SRT presented the arts in STEAM learning by leveraging our current children’s production, Fantastic Mr. Fox. The story draws connections between how animals dig and how technology has been designed to dig. The children therefore learnt the concept of digging and were shown the differences between the biological factors involved in how animals dig and the physics involved in how machines dig.
This was highlighted through a craft activity where the children made their own paws, the defining feature being especially long claws which help animals like foxes dig more efficiently. And next to this activity, we had a diorama on display, showing the technological approach to digging.
One of our learning & engagement practitioners, Kimberly Arriola, also ran a workshop on Arts Integration strategies, where educators learnt how to incorporate storytelling and music to teach mathematical concepts like AB patterning.
With mounds of evidence indicating the value of creative thought in problem-solving and general life skills, it is clear that this shift from STEM to STEAM learning is crucial for the development of a future-ready generation.