Careers in science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics (STEAM) continue to be the fastest-growing occupations in the United States, but with reports showing a large percentage of those occupations will go unfilled by the year 2020, it has become important for K-12 schools to introduce these areas of study to students at an early age.
Several metro Atlanta private schools are offering a number of STEAM-related programs in their schools to hopefully offset the future career gaps and better prepare their students for professions in these areas. Some are also incorporating arts education into their STEM programs adding the “A” in STEAM. Learn more about four of these school programs below.
STEAM underlies interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary learning and inquiry within the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum framework at Atlanta International School. Interdisciplinary learning experiences require students to integrate knowledge and modes of thinking from two or more subjects to develop a product or solve a problem. Transdisciplinary learning experiences are grounded in a real-world context, requiring students to draw on disciplinary understandings to devise novel solutions to problems.
AIS Head of Research and Learning Design Shelley Paul and Head of Instructional Technology Annalee Higginbottom say the school’s 3K-12 STEAM Initiative formally launched the 2015-16 school year with the formation of their STEAM Team, bringing together the arts, science, design and instructional technology teams with three new positions and funded by a $1 million STEAM grant from The Goizueta Foundation. Named for the ceo of The Coca-Cola Company, the foundation provides financial assistance to educational and charitable institutions. “Our primary school also added a STEAM coach to support teachers in advancing hands-on problem solving within the curriculum and to develop a dedicated makerspace and co-curricular STEAM opportunities for K-5 learners,” says Paul.
A combination of STEM subjects studied in conjunction with the creativity, collaboration, empathy and risk-taking cultivated by arts and design helps AIS learners develop the entrepreneurial mindset, design skills and innovation skills they need to succeed in the global workforce, as well as to solve complex environmental, social and economic challenges.
STEM has always been a priority at Woodward Academy. For example, they have had a planetarium as part of their science building since 1970. Woodward now offers a number of STEAM programs at its five Woodward Academy campuses, but one of its newest programs is located at Woodward North in Johns Creek, says Connie White, the school’s director of learning and innovation.
“Our new Eaglesphere is a space designed to accommodate multiple activities involving collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and problem-solving,” White says. “We envision a student curled up with a good book in the Young Readers’ Space, a small group conducting research in our extended Learning Space and a coding class working in our Engineering Lab, all while small groups of students are working at the Collaboration Stations reviewing the Adobe Voice presentations created in our Media Production Area. Our vision is to facilitate a learning environment that inspires, connects and supports learning for the 21st century.”
White goes on to say that Paul Vogt’s eighth-grade art class is a wonderful example of a STEAM program at Woodward. He has facilitated several STEAM projects over the years, such as the 3D jewelry design project in which students learn about art production, sales, distribution and working within a pre-designed budget. Students drive the process and use technology to create schematics, research design materials and executing their innovative prototypes on a 3D printer. “They critique one another and make revisions before they experience the entire production cycle, which includes marketing their creations to galleries,” she says. “Projects like these help develop creativity, provide real-world application skills and inspire our students to want to learn. In addition, soft skills such as entrepreneurialism, collaboration and communication are embedded in the learning process.”
At The Lovett School in Buckhead, STEAM is integrated into the curriculum and co-curricular programs and camps, says Laura Deisley, the school’s director of strategic innovation and the founding director of Lab Atlanta, a semester school in Midtown for 10th-graders offering honors-level curriculum that is sponsored by Lovett.
“Our commitment to more hands-on, interdisciplinary learning that incorporates design, engineering, making and technology has been growing for a number of years,” Deisley says. “The past three years have been particularly transformative as our students have shown great interest in computer science, ‘making’ and engineering. We have had a long-standing computer science program in our upper school, and demand has soared there in recent years. We have incorporated more experiences with coding, computational thinking and engineering design in our lower and middle schools. Our Fine Arts department has also helped lead the way with the integration of the arts into project-based learning experiences across various disciplines.”
She adds that STEAM is a priority at Lovett because of the incredible technological change and need for creative problem-solvers and innovators in the workforce. “It is also a great way to develop the skills and knowledge of effective communicators and collaborators, to deepen critical thinking skills and to make connections across disciplines and contexts,” she says. “It is particularly powerful when it is employed in challenge-based learning experiences that are authentic and provide students with a sense of agency and purpose.”
The 2015-16 school year at St. Martin’s Episcopal School in Brookhaven saw a boost in its already robust STEAM curriculum as it was named a recipient of a significant grant from The Goizueta Foundation.
St. Martin’s arts programs are already actively linked to the sciences and with the help of this grant the school can take its integrated curricular approach to the next level. The grant will help fund programs to expand students’ experiential learning and understanding in these important curriculum areas. Using these funds, St. Martin’s is hiring additional science staff, investing in equipment upgrades, supporting faculty STEAM professional development and moving its elementary science lab to a larger space for more hands-on learning experiments.
The aptly named STEAM@SMES curriculum deliberately places emphasis on an education that will prepare St. Martin’s students to be problem-solvers, innovators, inventors and logical thinkers in a 21st-century workplace.