After 36 weeks of being with my sweet 5th graders, summer is finally here! Honestly, I have been on my summer break for a week now, and I am loving it! I have had NO alarm clocks to wake up to which is a good thing considering I am staying up until 2 in the morning.
Summer is a great opportunity for me to reflect on my teaching and to research new ways to engage my students in the coming year. Yes, there really are many teachers that work all year long. While we may not be in the classroom with a group of students, many of us spend countless hours planning for the next school year and attending many different workshops and classes throughout the summer.
This summer is no exception for me. One of the reasons I became a teacher is due to my love of learning which I NEVER thought I would say when I was a teenager. I was fortunate to grow up with history loving parents. They took my sister and me everywhere that had a historical connection and that included some unusual field trips like cemeteries and old abandoned homes. I can remember many times begging them to stop “teaching” and just let us play and have a good time. Good news is, they did! They had a great way of balancing the two for us, and I definitely did not appreciate it until I had kids of my own.
I seriously LOVE learning and growing professionally, and that is why I spend my summers taking classes. I really desire to give my students the best education that I can, and that means that I must stay abreast of the innovative ideas to increase student engagement and achievement. One of the newest ideas in education is STEM and STEAM. Perhaps you have heard of these terms in your child’s school. Do you know what they mean or where they came from? As a teacher, I believe that both are important and have a place in education.
If you take a look around you today, you will notice just how different things are from, let’s say, twenty years ago. The career choices of students today consist of many jobs that never even existed 20 years ago. Over the years employers have indicated a growing concern that today’s employees lack the skills needed in the 21st century. What are those skills? We often refer to these skills as the 4 C’s in education-creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking.
As we continue through the 21st century, our world is rapidly changing due to the advances of technology. Many people believe that we need to focus more on math and science in our classrooms so that we are preparing for students for the global world in which we live. I am not implying that literacy is not important, it is essential in preparing our students for the future. To prepare for the future and the real world problems our students will face, we must help them to use the 4 C’s mentioned above. Students will need more math and science experiences so that they can take that knowledge and apply it solve the problems they will face in the future. Problems that we have yet to even discover. They also need to be contributing members to our world and successful in the workforce. Research in recent years has shown that when we focus on STEM and/or STEAM, we are equipping our students with those skills needed in today’s workforce and shaping the future leaders of our world.
So what is the difference between STEM and STEAM? Basically, STEAM includes Art. Both programs focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, but STEAM incorporates Art. I am not here to say which is better or to engage in the debate surrounding these two ideas. I believe that both have their place in our educational system, and as parents this summer you can engage your children in both STEM and STEAM activities.
Check out the image below from Project Lead the Way for some great STEM ideas created by the PLTW 2016 Teachers of the Year. You can easily see in these activities how you can add the element of art into it.
Next week I am excited that I get to participate in my county’s STEAM initiative. For four days I will be visiting many local businesses to see first-hand how these skills, the 4 C’s, are being used. We will spend time writing and creating lessons that focus on both STEM and STEAM education. Whether in work or life, we need to be problem solvers by thinking outside the box. We can accomplish so much more when we collaborate with one another and communicate effectively. I am eager to to learn more, and I can’t wait to share with you later what I have learned.
Disclaimer: No compensation was provided for this post. I was provided with the PLTW image from Kiv Hutton from the Pinkston Group. All information presented was 100% mine.