Student engagement is at the core of classroom instruction. As noted by the University of Washington’s Center for Teaching and Learning, “engaging students in the learning process increases their attention and focus, motivates them to practice higher-level critical thinking skills, and promotes meaningful learning experiences.”
STEAM and Engagement
STEAM, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Mathematics, is an educational movement that incorporates experiential learning into core subjects. It aims to not only prepare young thinkers for their future through hands-on learning, but enables them to become thoughtful, creative collaborators along the way.
In “Learning by Experience in a Standardized Testing Culture”, researchers at Hope College tested how STEAM students performed on standardized tests. They found that:
- Students in the experiential program perceived school as more enjoyable.
- Learning to successfully collaborate was a key factor leading to positive experiences for students.
- Students showed evidence of noncognitive skill growth.
- Students in the experiential program progressed appropriately on standardized tests and did not differ significantly from their counterparts in traditional classes.
The test scores did not change significantly, but the 21st century skills and overall school enjoyment did.
STEAM and Literacy
STEAM education certainly has its place in the classroom, but where does it fit into the school day? Recent U.S. education standards such as the Next Generation Science Standards and the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts promote instruction that includes literacy as key in STEAM learning. These standards focus on exposing students to the language of STEAM starting in elementary school. By introducing STEAM into early literacy lessons, students have the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of technical subjects. They also increase their ability to communicate and think critically.
Because literacy is part of all content, there are many ways to integrate literacy and STEAM and increase student engagement. Starting with a storybook is the simplest way to begin. Selecting a book, allowing students to identify the problem in the story, and then create a solution for that problem IS STEAM learning and also allows for a deeper understanding of the character and the story itself.
To help educators get started with STEAM and literacy, SAM Labs STEAM Solution has recommended reading to compliment each lesson. View the list HERE. The International Literacy Association has an additional list of STEM and storybook ideas found HERE.
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.