Recently a teaching team I am with was asked to defend the importance of STEAM programming in an after school setting.
- Why does STEAM exists in the after school setting?
- How it can be assessed?
- To what degree is it effective?
The deficit is not on the assessment but on the perception of STEAM. I have thought about assessment and the reason the students are chosen to be in STEAM and the approach is not to address their deficit, it is to inspire their motivation. In the context of our recent book study surrounding Teach Like a Pirate, it induces passion, provides immersive experiences, builds rapport, asks the right questions and analyzes the results, transforms expectations and assessment potential, and steeps enthusiasm. Changing the perception of school and addressing why school is important is something that our community should have input into.
I posted the questions to students informally in STEAM class yesterday, “Why is STEAM important to you?”
They replied with some points that are impactful to what they want, what they need, and what we can do to provide more of.
- They miss the fun that STEAM provides and that they experienced last year in the larger assemblies and break out times.
- STEAM builds friendships.
- It builds teamwork and gives them opportunities to work together (teamwork).
- It allows conversation and (per Ruby Payne’s Understanding Poverty book study) potential for code switching in their language and thinking.
- Fun is involved and service learning is at the front of changing the perspective of why school is important.
I asked students in STEAM (class) what they think is important about school (What is school for?) and and 3rd / 2nd second grade students provided their thoughts:
- What is a “good job”?
- If grades were not used, how would you assess to see if you were successful or not?
- “School is to get better at stuff”.
STEAM helps to change the perception and expectations of school, gives freedom for self learning, provides opportunities for students be a better “self”. So, how does service learning, the Midwest Food Bank, relationships with public service officials, and packing food related to STEAM? How can that be assessed? I think time will tell. Another deficit in this approach is that it is not more widespread and less holistic within the school and with our community.
- “In these pages, I learned that great creators don’t necessarily have the deepest expertise but rather seek out the broadest perspectives.”
- “Shapers” are independent thinkers: curious, non-conforming, and rebellious. They practice brutal, non-hierarchical honesty. And they act in the face of risk, because their fear of not succeeding exceeds their fear of failing.”
- “People who suffer the most from a given state of affairs are paradoxically the least likely to question, challenge, reject, or change it.”
- “When we use the logic of consequence, we can always find reasons not to take risks.”
(From Adam M. Grant, Originals: How Nonconformists Move the World)
Furthermore, a rally from a fellow pirate in STEAM expands:
‘”… reject the status quo and refuse to conform to any society that stifles creativity and independence.” Burgess goes on to say, “We need mavericks and renegades who are willing to use unorthodox tactics to spark and kindle the flame of creativity and imagination in the minds of the young.” Burgess also talks about “the 6 words” and how it made me think of myself in pre-k. “It’s easy for you. You’re creative.” Youch!!!! How many times did I feel people thinking that about me in that classroom. It wasn’t easy. I spent hours upon hours and dollars upon dollars to make that “easy” and fun atmosphere happen. Where has that passion and desire gone in my second grade classroom …
What I saw last year in our STEAM time was something that I think can best be measured by looking at some of the students that we had last year. I saw students that are frustrated all day long and are struggling in their regular classrooms, come ALIVE and become the leaders in the steam activities. I saw students that were troublemakers in the classroom, leading and engaging and helping others as they put their LittleBits together and explaining how the circuits worked. I saw students that are struggling writers have confidence and desire to tell stories as they created their Pueblo Storyteller and were able to write and tell a story they wanted to tell. We gave them a place to come and find their “passion” and feel successful.
Our transiency is a reality and that sometimes, for example, our third grade students haven’t been with us for three years. We don’t always know the experiences that our students have had. We have to teach them our expectations and how we expect students s to lead, but we also have to overcome any negative educational experiences they might have had. When you think about our third-fifth grade students that are struggling, they don’t need a label to tell them they are struggling, they feel it every time they are in class. They need to have these opportunities where they can engage and find their niche where they are successful. We are trying to build up the whole child, and I do fully believe that STEAM / STEM activities play a big part in engaging, motivating, and moving forward our students.’
Some additional thoughts about STEAM education are gathered from the longitudinal data that is beyond what STEAM Club can accomplish. Effective STEAM integration is locally (school-based) systemic and community oriented. The process is a commitment to have a long term effect on and with the students and is valuable to track within feeder pattern vision casting and collaboration. Some excerpts from the GaDOE share reasoning and growth as they have gathered data from participating schools across the state. For maximum impact, the strategy of forming and expectation of STEAM “thinking” would be paramount. The clarity in expectation and communication would require community integration and administrative vision to source human resources to learn and grow in this direction. Numbers will not show the impact at the school level or at the district level because the value of the mindset is not being woven into the fabric of exploration and anticipation. STEM Georgia outlines results across the state and projects needs in areas of emphasis and these details can be found at STEM Georgia.
There are FCBOE resources surrounding STEM and STEAM but it is inherently a school choice to pursue and explore the potential that it has, weigh the CTO (cost to own) of our current focal areas, and potentially change course to align with career, industry, community, and developmentally appropriate actions to make STEAM more of a priority at our school. Currently, there is no certified STEAM (or STEM) school in the district. Certification checks the heart but the diet of feeding the metabolism of the organizational organism created through STEAM becomes habit.
We as educators should create students that think. The jobs of the future are jobs that haven’t even been created yet. Industry recognizes this and asks for it. Education entertains this and does not push back to change it. This is a conversation among professionals poised to act on these requests that early graduates reiterate when they leave formal education. What will answer be. Silence? Careful consideration and planning? Action to make changes that also support that the measures we need to take in order to prepare students for the global workforce have not been created yet, either? How different will we (choose) to think and how different will be act (or ignore) in response.
“Some people think design is how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it’s really how it works.” – Steve Jobs
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Will Durant on Aristotle
“To be what you must, you must give up what you are.” – Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens)
“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” – Attributed to Nelson Mandela
What is reflecting?