The world around us is increasingly powered by science and technology. There’s plenty of data on the growth of STEM careers, and the need for qualified workers to fill these jobs. These trends aren’t going anywhere, and if anything are accelerating. But what about STEAM?
With STEAM’s thoughtful addition of the Arts to STEM’s Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, STEAM lessons are a vital tool for ensuring students have all the skills required to succeed in the jobs of tomorrow. Here are 3 ways educators can ensure students are prepared for a future career in STEAM.
Develop Students’ Soft Skills
As educators, when it comes to preparing our students for success beyond the classroom, sometimes our first thought is to focus on core curriculum competency. While ensuring your students understand the subjects you teach is incredibly important, classrooms infused with STEAM have an advantage that educators can harness to prepare students for their future in the workforce: soft skills.
Soft skills developed through STEAM include:
- Computational thinking
- Critical thinking
- Collaboration on tasks and projects
- Communication on tasks and projects
- Technology literacy
- Social skills
Out of all these, one skill reigned supreme according to a recent study conducted by UC Berkeley management professor and former Harvard Business School professor Morten Hansen. In the study, Hansen analyzed 5,000 business professionals across a variety of roles over five years to understand what made them top performers.
The result? The top performers were able to “do less, and then obsess.” By breaking down their roles, projects, and responsibilities by priority, and then focusing on the most important tasks pertaining to their position, workers ranked much higher in the study.
“Greatness in work, art, and science requires obsession over quality and an extraordinary attention to detail,” Hansen said.
If this sounds familiar, it should. For students and educators in a STEAM classroom, this method can be practiced through the use of computational thinking skills.
What is computational thinking? Computational thinking refers to the process used to formulate a problem and express the solution in a way a computer can understand and implement. Computational thinking has four parts:
- Breaking down a complex problem into manageable parts (decomposition).
- Identifying similarities among problems (pattern recognition).
- Focusing on the important part of a problem (abstraction).
- Developing step-by-step instructions to solve the problem (algorithms).
Computational thinking allows students, both now and as future professionals, the ability to embrace simplicity in their work. By giving students the skills to approach their classwork with this STEAM-powered methodology, they’ll be much more likely to be successful in the workplace.
Talk About STEAM Careers
Your students can probably name dozens of science careers off the top of their heads, but they may not be able to easily connect the dots between STEAM and future career opportunities. As educators, we have the opportunity to educate students on how STEAM brings together science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics, and just how many doors it can open to future careers. Introducing possible careers in STEAM early opens the door for more comprehensive career exploration and awareness.
Because STEAM doesn’t exclude the artistic design element required when interacting with scientific, technological, engineering, or mathematical work, a world of opportunities can open up for students to consider for their future jobs. This is great news for students who may not be as passionate about core STEM coursework, because STEAM offers another avenue for them to become interested in those fields.
Examples of STEAM job titles include:
Each of these roles use a combination of art, science, math, and/or technology in their everyday work. These career ideas are just a starting point to get students thinking, as there are many more STEAM-related careers to consider. STEAM impacts so much of the world around us, and as teachers, listening to our students’ interests and finding a connection that relates back to STEAM and future careers can be one of the most valuable things we can offer to learners during their time in the school system.
Help Students Connect to Their STEAM Interests
One of the best things about a STEAM education is that it gives students the ability to experience real-world complexities and attempt to solve real-world problems. As an educator, there are three great ways you can amplify this for students to help their future career aspirations and career readiness.
1) Give Them Projects. Having students learn about content is great, but giving students projects is what truly unlocks the power of STEAM. With STEAM projects, students can hypothesize, experiment, and make connections from the content you teach to the world around them. Even better, students can walk away from school with tangible portfolio pieces of completed work they can take to future employers to showcase their qualifications, skills, and expertise.
2) Guest Speakers. Bringing guest speakers to your classroom from STEAM fields can be an invaluable experience for learners. Have students prepare a list of questions to ask the speaker that align with their interests, while letting your speaker know about your work with STEAM. Many of today’s working professionals have STEAM-related roles and don’t even know it! By giving your students exposure to opportunities while they are young, you’re helping educate them on STEAM careers, how the working world applies STEAM practices, and just how important STEAM is for their future. This is an incredibly valuable career exploration opportunity to provide to your students!
3) Encourage Internships and Apprenticeships. For students who are nearing middle or high school, internships or apprenticeships in STEAM-related fields can take their projects to the next level. Many educators in K-12 may think that internships are reserved for higher education, but with the growing number of charter schools and personalized learning initiatives, it’s possible to tie together a student’s STEAM learning with on-the-job experience in the field. It may require you to work with your student’s other teachers to tell them about the work you’re doing with STEAM and your emphasis on education on STEAM careers, but if you can line up the right opportunity, you could help positively influence your student’s future.
More Resources for STEAM Education & Career Awareness
Educating your students on STEAM is a process, but it’s a valuable one that goes beyond the classroom and will follow them for the rest of their lives. With the right STEAM-powered skills, projects, and experiences, your students can set themselves apart in their future workplaces.
Eleanor is an EdTech writer who’s passionate about changing the world one classroom at a time. When not spreading the news about the latest in K-12 technology, you’ll find her geeking out about the latest startups or video games and adding to her ’80s toy collection.