With the STEAM (or STEM) approach to learning continuing to gain momentum, the pressure is on for schools to jump on board and embrace the integrated approach to learning once again. In my 10+ years in the classroom, I have seen the approach to curriculum move from integrated studies to disceret learning areas and now back to integration with STEAM/ STEM and PBL (Problem Based Learning).
****** pauses to reminisce about the good old days of teaching ******
We are teaching in a post-curriculum-apocolypse, where the curriculum was torn apart and reborn into highly specialised and specific areas. Bringing those areas together is one thing. The second and even more difficult part is bringing them together in ways that have authentic connections and links to the real world. We are wanting our students to work the way real world Scientists, Engineers and Mathematicians do to develop solutions to needs they identify and in ways they control.
On behalf of teachers everywhere...
(and sorry kids....the Pirate party is cancelled...)
Its not all doom and gloom
So, 2017 has become my year of opportunity as we move into developing our STEAM units across the Primary Campus. The teachers of each year level have worked alongside our Teaching and Learning Coordinator and myself to develop ideas for our units this year. It was a big undertaking to be sure and while I don't think we will get it 100% right the first time around, I wanted to share an example of what we are doing.
Year 6 Unit: Our first attempt with STEAM
The unit we developed is driven by Science and Design Technologies, centering around electrical and solar energy. Our authentic connection to the real world was through the Solar Buddies organisation, who provide students in schools with solar lights they can build themselves. These lights are then sent to other children who live in energy poverty in the hopes of providing them with a light to study by. It is a fantastic organisation and the children are already seeing how they can have a meaningful impact on someone's life. The Solar Buddy light is a vehicle for us to explore design thinking and guide the rest of the unit. This week students discussed possible design considerations the company made when designing the product and discussed how something as simple as a solar light can impact lives, communities and even countries. It was an energised discussion.
While the unit is exciting on paper, it is a little scary as well as it relies heavily on students taking charge and leading the way. It is "teacher as facilitator" in every sense of the word and it makes me nervous for sure...but you cannot discover new lands without stumbling through the wilderness a little.
Stay tuned to see if I make it out of the wilderness alive...