In the webinar, “5 Ways to Supercharge your STEAM program with littleBits,” issues of STEAM education are addressed. Some of these include kids being consumers of technology but not necessarily creators, and that it doesn’t reach all learners. The A in STEAM stands for art and design, which impacts creative confidence and deeper thinking within STEAM-reated activities. There were two guest speakers, Dave Sharp and Michael Wilkinson, who both have much experience with STEAM education.
As Sharp introduced littleBits, he mentioned the construction of the product being low floor, or easy to understand, but also being high ceiling, or complex projects. This relates to our work at Barrow as we continually explore and create different Makerspace ideas that the students can actually benefit from. It is important that the students know the task at hand that also challenges them, requires them to tinker, fail, and try again. Sharp also discusses STEAM education as a way for students to express themselves and explore ideas. I see so much this concept at Barrow as students express what they like, dislike, and what they feel confident making. It’s important for students to try a wide variety of activities and then make it something they can explore and enjoy. For example, some students were shy when it came to building with duct tape because they haven’t ever really experience with it. When I asked them what was interesting to them, they suddenly tried to make a purse or a wallet and further expressed themselves in the process.
Below are the 5 Ways to Supercharge your STEAM program.
1. Instill a Growth Mindset in Students (continue to strengthen a creation)
2. Provide scaffolding for teachers and students– (invention cycle). We usually experiment first so we can better understand what the students are asked to do at Barrow.
3. Build STEAM projects around real world issues- (see a greater purpose to help the world). One activity at Barrow could be to use recycled materials to build, or to create something that someone else would benefit from. Students could design and sew pieces of a quilt and provide it to someone in need of a blanket within the community.
4. Connect with Curriculum/standards- (journaling/reflecting)
5. Ensure that teachers have support and training.
When planning for a STEAM activity, it’s important to have materials with various uses and to create an environment for students to fail and try again. A teacher should also use the power of choice and always support students as they build. In the video, Wilkinson, a STEAM teacher, said that he always discusses student creations and gives them challenges that they can then branch off of. When students at Barrow made straw mazes, I walked around and gave the students a chance to tell me about their creations, and the responses were full of excitement, uniqueness, and greater knowledge.
Wilkinson gave various examples of STEAM projects that serve many purposes. For example, using lights teach students about shadows, sunlight, and seasons all in a puppet show. STEAM projects support science procedures, in which students investigate and conduct trials to figure out conclusions. Since Makerspace is centered more on making, students don’t have worksheets and don’t write procedures or conclusions, but they verbally express their procedure every time they build. At Barrow, students are challenged to build towers. They analyze questions they might have, build, discover something new, re-build, and draw conclusions from their creation. Students take into account balance, weight of objects, sizes, and much more within this one challenge. Overall, this webinar helped me better understand STEAM education and its relation to Makerspace.