With the world becoming increasingly digital and reliant on technology, the need for a strong foundation in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) for all students is vital. Schools need to prepare students to succeed in our fast-changing and technology-driven world — and one way to do so is to implement STEAM or STEM programs in their school or district.
It can be overwhelming to start a STEAM program from scratch, which is why we’ve created a basic guide for educators. If you’ve been wondering how to start a STEM program, this guide is here to help.
Step 1: Determine Your Goals
The first step in starting a STEAM program is to determine your goals and establish a framework for creating your program.
Ask yourself several questions to determine your goals. What do you hope to accomplish? Do you want to increase student interest or improve student performance in STEAM subjects? Build a pipeline toward CTE classes in middle school and beyond? Or do you simply want to provide students with valuable skills for the workforce?
Whatever your goals are, it’s essential to define them. Work with administrators, community members, and teachers to discuss what you all hope to achieve with the program. Collaborating helps ensure that your program aligns with the needs of the students and community.
Step 2: Identify Your Resources
After determining your goals, it’s important to identify the resources available to your school or district for starting a STEAM program. Resources may include funding, space, personnel, or equipment. Lack of resources can be a serious challenge, requiring creative solutions.
Creating a budget is essential during the planning phase, even if you haven’t chosen your materials or STEAM curriculum. You’ll need funding for materials, training, STEAM learning spaces, and more.
You also need to determine where you’ll acquire the funding you need. Are you relying on government funding, local support, fundraising, or EdTech grants?
Consider partnering with local businesses or community organizations for support, as they may be able to provide equipment, funding, or other resources to help start your program. You can also look for ways to repurpose existing resources, such as unused classrooms or equipment.
Another solution is to seek out outside organizations, businesses, and community experts that can come in and expose students to STEAM concepts and programming.
By seeking out resources that supply the technology themselves, even schools that are unable to afford the tools and equipment can still enhance student learning.
Step 3: Build a Team
Building the right team is crucial to the success of your STEAM program, which can include mentors, industry experts, community members, and curriculum developers. It’s important to recruit team members with a diverse range of skills and expertise.
Curriculum developers can help you design a curriculum that aligns with your goals and meets the needs of your students. Mentors and industry experts can provide support and valuable insights for your students. And community members can offer resources and connections to local businesses and organizations.
Step 4: Develop the Curriculum
Your STEAM curriculum should include project-based learning, interdisciplinary lessons, and real-world applications.
Project-based learning encourages students to work on real-world problems that help build critical thinking and problem-solving skills while fostering creativity and perseverance.
Interdisciplinary lessons integrate multiple subjects, such as science, math, engineering, and technology, which helps students understand how those fields are connected. One example of this interconnection is when an ocularist creates a prosthetic eye. They use math to determine the dimensions of the eye, science, technology, and engineering to create the eye, and art to paint the eye to make it look natural.
Real-world applications show students the relevance of how they can apply their learning outside the classroom. You can also find existing resources, such as STEAM and coding resources, that include standards-aligned curriculum with the program.
Step 5: Provide Professional Development
Professional development is essential for educators who are involved in a STEAM program. They need to remain up-to-date with the latest industry trends, technologies, and teaching methodologies.
A few examples of professional development opportunities that are useful for educators include online courses, workshops, and conferences. Teachers who don’t stay updated on the latest information, or even have a STEM background, may not have the ability and confidence to teach STEM subjects in a way that the students find relatable.
To ensure that your STEAM program and your professionals are continually improving, encourage educators to seek out professional development opportunities and share what they learn with their colleagues.
Step 6: Assess Your Program
Assess your program regularly to ensure that it’s meeting your goals. A few examples of assessment methods include performance data, student feedback, and surveys. You can then use the data to make changes to your program where you feel they are needed.
Program assessment can help you identify areas where your program is successful in increasing your students’ interest in STEAM fields and determine where they struggle with performance in STEAM topics.
You may find that you need to adjust your curriculum or provide additional resources to support student learning.
What to Avoid When Launching Your STEAM Program
While you’re planning your STEM program and curriculum, there are also a few things you want to avoid.
Setting Age Limits
There is no age limit for when someone can learn about STEAM topics, as STEAM education is for all age groups from kindergarten through high school.
Younger learners have a natural curiosity and are more willing to take chances, which serves them well when dealing with STEAM concepts.
Neglecting the Basics
While a STEAM program focuses on engineering, math, and science, it’s important that you don’t neglect the basics. Ensure your program includes fundamental skills such as critical thinking, writing, and reading.
Focusing On Just One Area
While science, technology, and math are each essential components of a STEAM program, it’s important not to focus only on one of them. Ensure that your program includes a balance of everything.
Forgetting to Involve Students
While you’re planning your STEAM program with your students in mind, it’s important to involve your students in the planning and development of the program. This involves soliciting their feedback and ideas. Otherwise, you may wind up with a STEM curriculum that doesn’t engage or inspire the students.
Neglecting Community Partnerships
Community partnerships can provide valuable connections, resources, and support for your STEAM program. Neglecting to establish and maintain partnerships with local institutions, organizations, and businesses can limit your program’s success and impact.
Overlooking Equity and Diversity
It’s important to ensure that your STEAM program is accessible and inclusive for all students, regardless of their race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, ability, or gender.
Failing to account for equity and diversity can perpetuate systemic barriers that would prevent someone from discovering a STEAM topic that they would love, fits their strengths and interests, and could be their future career.
Get Started with SAM Labs
SAM Labs understands that teachers today often lack the necessary tools and resources to teach STEAM subjects, which is why we provide the STEAM resources and tools teachers need to transform the way students learn.
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.