The case for STEAM education is rapidly growing, leaving educators and administrators with a lot of questions about the best way to implement it in an already busy school day.
STEAM learning helps make STEM concepts more approachable while also improving students’ problem-solving skills and academic creativity. STEAM — which stands for science, technology, engineering, arts, and math — turns rote, cut-and-dry STEM experiences on their head by introducing innovation and risk through the lens of art.
Common Problems With STEAM Education
While most educators agree that the benefits of STEAM learning are unmatched, it can be difficult to implement and ensure STEAM program success.
To solve the problems that STEAM programs face, it’s important to first understand what those problems are.
STEAM is relatively new
STEAM is a newer learning approach that many educators might not be confident teaching.
For many years, art has been taught in vastly different ways from STEM subjects. The idea of combining these fields may seem untraditional to some and requires out-of-the-box thinking that many aren’t experienced in or comfortable with.
Lack of curriculum resources
A lack of STEAM-specific resources and lesson plans can require more work and effort from teachers, educators, and administrators.
Instead of falling back on a tried-and-true lesson plan that’s been passed down for years, incorporating STEAM learning might mean additional planning or organizing that you aren’t accustomed to.
If you’re looking to bring STEAM to your STEM classes, you might be surprised by how limited your usable resources could be.
Limited access to materials could hinder your STEAM program’s success. Since STEAM programs entail a minimum of two disciplinary subjects, the materials needed are often greater than what an exclusively art-based or exclusively STEM-based class would require.
This can bring up questions of budget and financing to provide each student with the necessary materials. Since every student has their own needs, you will also need to account for each individual’s capability to handle particular materials and tools.
Patience and communication are important values for educators in any field to possess. The need for these qualities becomes even greater when considering STEAM program success.
STEAM programs are inherently complex, and it takes great communication skills to explain their concepts to a diverse range of students. Additionally, the interdisciplinary nature of STEAM classes can take an educator longer to explain than a traditional STEM curriculum.
Cultivating Solutions For STEAM Program Success
Many of the obstacles that STEAM education faces are due to a lack of resources, limited knowledge, and just not enough time or training. These may seem like large roadblocks to tackle, but there are a few perfectly doable steps that you can take to combat these problems.
Educators and administrators can certainly bring their own unique experiences to STEAM learning, but here are some practical spots to start.
Enthusiasm for STEAM learning is one of the easiest ways to ensure STEAM program success. Since STEAM is a newer learning approach, its unfamiliar nature may seem like a nearly insurmountable obstacle; why not look at it as an attribute instead?
Today’s educators and administrators have the opportunity to define the success of STEAM education and transform the lives of students for years to come. You can make a difference in how people think about STEAM in your district and beyond by consistently bringing enthusiasm and excitement toward STEAM learning.
Don’t start from scratch
When you’re considering implementing STEAM learning into your lesson plans, take what you already know and make it better.
Successful STEM lessons, programs, and experiences can become STEAM experiences with careful planning and an understanding of the core material. After all, the most commonly understood definition of STEAM is STEM that’s taught through arts integration.
You’re not creating a whole new field of thinking; you’re just expanding the lenses you can use to think about the concept.
This is not to say that STEAM should come as a secondary add-on to STEM programs. Instead, we’re encouraging you to use all your resources for the best possible STEAM education.
Think outside the box
Embrace creative thinking to put together a successful STEAM learning plan. In the same way that STEAM encourages students to think outside of the box, you can do the same thing when trying to apply STEAM concepts to your learning materials.
It’s okay and even encouraged for STEAM learning to look a little different from traditional lesson plans. In order to cultivate innovation, it can help to become the innovator yourself for a little while.
Plan, plan, plan
We can’t stress this one enough. Due to the complexity of STEAM learning, you’ll need to take your organizational skills to the next level.
You’ll want to thoroughly know what you’re communicating and how to communicate it before it’s time to do the communicating. By planning ahead, you can prevent students’ confusion and ensure your STEAM program’s success.
Overcome common STEAM challenges with SAM Labs
The challenges that educators and administrators face when implementing STEAM learning are legitimate problems worth fighting against. STEAM programs might take a little extra work or a lot of extra planning to integrate, but the learning benefits are more than worth it.
The more that we combat these problems, the more likely it is that the problems will begin to solve themselves. Resources, ideas, and creative thinking will all begin to come more naturally, as educators craft a world of innovation and understanding for a new generation of learners.
If you’re looking for an accessible and practical way to begin incorporating STEAM learning, check out the curriculum plans and starter packs that we offer here at SAM Labs. We’ll give you that extra boost you need to combat some of STEAM education’s most common problems and challenges.
Shaunda Douglas is a former educator with over 15 years of experience in all levels of education. In her free time, she reads, plays with her dogs, watches baseball, and loves a good nap.