What is STEAM education?

The Program Experimento, created by Siemens Stiftung and promoted by
the Siemens Foundation in Brazil, is based on STEAM education.
There are many definitions and interpretations of this methodology, but in
general, it is the integrated and applied teaching of Science, Technology,
Engineering, Arts and Math – origin of the acronym STEAM. Learning
revolves around the development of technological solutions and problem
solving in the real world, by constructing projects.
Students are invited to investigate, propose and create experiments. The
integration between the five areas encourages them to get their hands
dirty, using the knowledge they have and acquiring new knowledge, in an
active and contextualized way. “STEAM education, given its
multidisciplinary nature, prepares students for contemporary challenges as it helps them to develop social and emotional values and skills”, explains
Mariana Abrahão, biologist and educator, a partner of the Siemens
Foundation in teacher training.

The origin of STEAM education

The movement emerged in the United States when, in the early 2000s,
some reports pointed out a drop in young people´s interest in pursuing
professional careers in the areas of science, technology, engineering and
math, which was largely due to the teaching model and traditional andoutdated form of transmitting knowledge in a strict manner, without any practical application. “The country soon realized the negative impact that this factor could have on forming qualified labor, affecting not only school performance indicators, but the industry as a whole”, Mariana says.

Thus, the STEM curriculum was created, initially without the “A”, for Arts, to foster the interest of students for these careers. “Soon, the concept spread
to other countries, given the great importance that innovation, combined
with technological and scientific transformations, acquired in societies,
even influencing the political sphere. At the time, the United States already
showed signs of having scarce human resources in the STEM areas and
created these educational actions to improve its technical strength and
ensure its economic leadership on the world stage”, João Guilherme
Camargo dos Santos and Luziene Aparecida Grandi add, teachers from
Escola de Inventor [School for inventors], in Ribeirão Preto, also a Siemens
Foundation partner in the Program Experimento.

The advantages of STEAM education

In this active approach, the student is responsible for building their
knowledge. “It is up to the teacher to support the formation of a critical,
autonomous citizen, not just one that memorizes and produces knowledge,
but a historical and social subject who learns, integrates and creates
something new”, explain the educators at Escola do Inventor.

The practice is not just in the classroom, it ends up extending to everyday
activities and contributing to being more resilient, reflective and
collaborative citizens, in addition to being tolerant of different points of view and opinions. These are essential skills for the 21st century citizen, who must constantly adapt to the rapid changes in society and the many
challenges we encounter in our routine”, Mariana comments.

She reinforces the student’s involvement in the class as an advantage:
“Curiosity has been increasingly reduced in young people, who have all the
answers in the palm of their hands, on a smartphone, and who attend
about five hours of classes per day where the answers are given along with
the questions by the teachers themselves”. STEAM piques curiosity and
encourages protagonism.

5 characteristics of STEAM education

  • It has an open methodology, no step-by-steps
  • A project can last for one class or several months
  • The teacher acts as mediator and advisor
  • A laboratory or special room is not required
  • Each STEAM class is always different

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