Reimagining STEAM and Maker education

In our new socially distant world, it has become necessary to reimagine what it looks like to teach STEAM and Maker education while keeping students and teachers as safe as possible. I’m part of a STEM Teachers Facebook group, and almost everyday there has been a post or comment about adopting or adapting new ways of teaching STEM, whether that looks like distance learning, supporting home school learning, or maintaining health and safety precautions in a school. From my perspective, there are a few ways that STEAM and Maker Education could be reimagined during this time.

STEAM and Making: Socially distant

For starters, it will become more necessary to ensure that students aren’t sharing materials as much as possible, or else materials should be sanitized between users. Here’s a fabulous blog post about “STEM Without Sharing Materials“. Some of the highlights, and what we had already planned to incorporate into our programs, include:

  • Each student builds their own
  • Engineer with bulk materials (think paper, paper clips, index cards, etc)
  • Raid the recycle bin
  • Get digital

Thanks to the grant we recently got awarded, enough materials were purchased so that each student will get their own supplies to do the lesson with. This won’t exclude collaboration during lessons, but it does mean that each student can use what they have without sharing during the lesson. I’ve already put the word out to a few people in my area that I’m collecting recyclables such as water bottles or corks to use in classes, since it’s very budget friendly, it reuses the materials, and it allows each student to make and take home their own project. We’ll also be doing a bit more robotics lessons than previous programs, now that we’ve built up our robotics stash.

Move STEAM and Making Outdoors

One opportunity that some schools, parents, or non formal education programs may be able to take advantage of is to take their classes outside. Out Teach worded this idea well with the example “For math, simple counting exercises can be done inside or out, so why not expand on the lesson to explore concepts like weight or volume? Ask questions like: What’s heavier, ten rocks or ten pine cones? What takes up more room and why?” This is why we have always had an Outdoor STEM program; because there is so much that is taught indoors that could be taught outdoors with a little creativity. Having said this, not every student, teacher, or parent has easy access to the natural world, and their outdoors may not be a safe environment either. But there are many people that could be taking advantage of local parks, backyards, trails, and waterways to teach STEAM. There’s a lot of Making that can also be taught outdoors, depending on the skill or project. This could be a chance to really use biomimicry in learning and teaching traditional crafts that use natural materials. Here’s a fabulous resource that outlines how to move education outdoors, using case studies, ensuring equitable access, how to integrate it with in place school instruction, and more.

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