How Educators Can Infuse STEAM Topics Together
One of the largest educational initiatives over the past decade has been the STEM movement which seeks to increase students’ knowledge of science, technology, engineering and mathematic related subjects. Recently, there has been a push to include art and design within this initiative, extending the name from STEM to STEAM. While the STEAM movement has been gaining substantial momentum, it’s still relatively young, so its important for educators to have a solid understanding of the various components and benefits of the STEAM movement, as well as how teachers can infuse STEAM topics together in the classroom.
Introducing the STEAM Movement
The STEAM movement was originally started by the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) when the prestigious design school noticed a dire lack of art and design within the STEM movement that was dominating the educational scene in the early 2010s. The key objectives of the STEAM movement are:
- encourage the placement of art & design with the STEM movement
- promote research that signifies the equal importance of art and design alongside STEM subjects
- support the inclusion of art and design within the k-12 and university level curriculum
- stimulate the hiring of artists and designers for creativity and innovation
Benefits of the STEAM Movement
The STEAM movement has quickly rose in popularity thanks to its promotion from many major universities and corporations, as well as its major educational benefits. One of the most important of these benefits is that a STEAM curriculum provides students with a more holistic educational environment. For example, with a STEAM curriculum, students will not only understand how STEM principles connect together, but they will also have knowledge on how these technical skills connect with more artistic sensibilities.
Likewise, art and design have been a key factor of a number of our leading science, engineering and technology companies. Take Apple for instance, a company whose CEO, Steve Jobs, went through excruciating lengths to ensure that Apple products were aesthetically-pleasing pieces of art. In fact, Jobs so well understood the impact and importance of art that he would often handpick the music featured on Apple commercials. Another great example is the websites and applications that we use on an almost daily basis – all of these leverage art and design to not only create innovative products and services, but also design brand logos that attract and connect with a fan base.
Tips for Infusing STEAM Topics in the Music Classroom
Given the breadth and volume of content, music teachers have an almost endless amount of opportunities to infuse STEAM topics together in the classroom. One of the most logical examples is using music to teach mathematics, or vice versa. This can easily be done through the analysis of the circle of fifths, wave lengths and frequencies within individual notes or chords.
Another option would be analyzing music instruments from the perspective of each STEAM component. So, for example, for one 10-minute segment, you may observe a piano from an engineering perspective, then a design perspective, then a technical, etc. Or, from a more traditional academic perspective, you could highlight the various STEAM components and then discuss as a class how each industry has relied upon another in order to advance. For example, whether its instruments, amplification or music listening products, music has greatly aided in the advancement of the electrical engineering industry. Likewise, technology has continuously helped music elevate to new platforms.
Ways to Aid with the STEAM Movement
If teachers are interested in aiding the STEAM movement, there are a number of steps that they can take. To start, simply incorporating STEAM projects into the curriculum can not only be extremely helpful for the movement, and also for students’ education as well. Teachers could also set up a STEAM student club, or if there already is a STEM club they could slowly incorporate some art and design elements into club meetings. Lastly, if teachers are interested in learning more about the STEAM movement and networking with peers, they can attend STEAM Conferences – such as the US STEAM Conference Strand – or explore STEAM research and databases online.
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