Most education professionals would agree that there are many benefits to STEAM learning in the classroom, but where does it fit? With core subjects to teach, special activities and events, interruptions, sick days, and more, STEAM can feel like one more thing.
The first step to integrating STEAM is changing your mindset. STEAM is not one more thing, but a way to enrich your current lessons. While it won’t happen without effort, the payoff in engagement, student growth in 21st century skills, and deeper understanding of content, is well worth it.
Next, find resources that align with your standards for easy integration. No matter what STEAM Solution you use, there should be clear alignment to the standards your state and district use. For example, our SAM Labs STEAM Solution alignment maps show exactly where our lessons fit into your daily content.
To help guide you, here are a few tips to integrate STEAM into your classroom.
1. Start Small
Mini STEAM challenges related to a storybook or holiday are a quick way to get started. You can also add one other letter from STEAM to math activities. For example, taking a math geometry/shape standard and adding an engineering challenge or coding a factor machine is a simple way to teach expectations and procedures and add the hands-on STEAM elements. Need help planning and aligning your STEAM lesson with standards? Download this free, editable planning sheet.
2. Incorporate Real-World Problems
Fourth grade teacher, Sarah Gerhardt, uses STEAM throughout various subjects. “What I really like about this work is that it is very high level, it is “real life”, and most of all, it’s fun. The kids are learning but not really realizing how much learning they’re doing. By integrating all of this work I don’t feel like I’m “giving up” my time. I’m maximizing my time! I think it’s also great that I’m able to incorporate coding, computer science, and even art into this work without doing an extra lesson.”
3. Integrate with Science Content
Science is the S in STEAM and one of the most relevant ways to integrate other parts of STEAM. Replacing an activity that may not cement learning of a specific concept, with a hands-on STEAM lesson, will deepen understanding and increase student engagement.
For example, while continuing the week long science unit on seed dispersal, this teacher could easily replace their Friday activity. Instead of repeating a drawing/writing activity, as they did on Wednesday and Thursday, the hands-on learning STEAM Seed Dispersal Lesson will reach the kinesthetic learners and increase student engagement while honing problem solving and collaboration skills.
Encouraging students to use their curiosity to explore technology and make their own discoveries is a student-led, hands-on approach that has created a great enthusiasm for STEAM projects at Catlin Gabel School.
While allowing time for tinkering with STEAM materials may not be possible in your current schedule, finding time like indoor recess or for early finishers has its benefits, including developing creativity and critical thinking skills.
5. Projects Over Time
While larger projects may seem daunting, with a little bit of planning and using SAM Labs STEAM Solution lesson content, you can break up a project over time and integrate other subjects purposefully.
In Boulder Valley School District, 5th grade students created Mars rovers to drive in their student-created biospheres to incorporate engineering with science, math, art and coding!
Integrating STEAM will bring joy to you and your students, but how do you become more confident? Why, through education, of course!
With that in mind, we asked our team of former educators—with over 36 years of combined education experience—for their best tips for increasing your confidence teaching STEM & coding. Read them 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.