Over the years, an increasing amount of schools nationwide have incorporated the STEM framework into their curriculum, engaging students around the subjects of science, technology, engineering, and math. The framework has proved to be a critical component to elementary education that better prepares students’ for future careers, especially since the United States is expecting to see more than three million job openings in the STEM-related fields in 2018. Recently, however, educators have recognized the benefits of integrating arts education into STEM subjects, which has led to a new framework.

STEAM education is a cross-curricular learning style and allows for students to go at their own pace with hands-on learning and lesson plans, all while including the arts sector. If schools begin to implement STEAM programs at the elementary levels, students could gain knowledge in the arts discipline and truly elevate their entire educational careers.

Adding art and design into the open-ended, inquiry-based approach associated with STEM has already made a significant impact in elementary learning, as the approach puts value back into storytelling and creative thinking that benefits young learners in a multitude of ways.

1. Encourages unique problem-solving
STEAM removes limitations from the STEM curriculum and replaces them with wonder, critique, inquiry and innovation—all while living under the arts discipline. The most valuable aspect of STEAM education is its ability to reach all levels of knowledge.

When a problem or challenge is at hand, students are encouraged to work through the solution using science and technology, with a creative mindset, while leveraging the arts. STEAM objectives stress the importance of educators remaining patient when students are working to discover their own solutions. Guiding young learners requires them to systematically think through problems and apply information in unique ways to creatively problem-solve.

2. Emphasizes hands-on learning
The art-integrated framework gives students the chance to solve their own solutions to challenges by engaging in hands-on, experimental learning. STEAM projects often incorporate a variety of different materials and tools that encourage students to learn by practice, rather than learning by lecture.

More specifically, STEAM education assignments and projects consist of three elements: how something works, how to build it, and how to fix it, which all require hands-on experience. This develops the same crucial skills and establishes an equal playing field for all students regardless of their gender, socioeconomic status, or race.

3. Builds confidence
Another valuable component of the STEAM program is its impact on elementary-age students’ confidence. All students are different and vary in their educational boundaries, but with STEAM programs, every student learns the lesson at their own pace, with their own solutions—giving them the confidence they need to tackle the next challenge.

In addition, STEAM welcomes and encourages failure. Failing presents students the opportunity to learn from their mistakes in a safe place that will help breed new, creative, and more accurate solutions on their own. This process helps invoke confidence in students at each turn while inspiring them to constantly explore new paths.

STEM programs are valuable, but the critical process of creativity and innovation is missing when schools rely only on STEM education. Incorporating arts education through STEAM engages the right side of the brain—sparking creativity and imagination all the while gaining valuable knowledge through the core topics of science, technology, engineering, and math.

About the Author:

Rebecca Bersani is the STEAM instructor for grades 1-6 at the Blue Academy Elementary School, a part of the MSD of Decatur Township in Indianapolis, a nationally recognized school district that uses an innovative and personalized, small-learning community approach. Bersani believes a critical component to teaching is knowing each student and recognizing them as both individual learners and equal in a classroom. She has an undeniable passion for teaching and creativity in technology and is committed to fostering environments that encourage creativity.


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