STEM seems to be all the rage these days but STEAM Education takes it one step further! We spoke with a leading Singapore educator to get the lowdown…
These days, it seems parents are faced with a barrage of advice on how to raise a science-mind, gifted artist, math genius – the list goes on! Before you succumb to pressure to lock in a career path for your little one, there’s a multifaceted educational approach we think you should know about, mama. We sat down with Canadian International School (CIS) STEAM teacher Andrew Deir to understand more about their unique STEAM programme and why it matters for kiddos of all ages and personalities.
Andrew explains why STEAM is taking the academic world by storm with its interdisciplinary framework empowering kids to find success in the 21st century. He even gives us tips on how to replicate STEAM activities at home!
Firstly, what exactly is a STEAM education?
STEAM stands for science, technology, entrepreneurship, arts and mathematics. We know these five disciplines to be vital for a thriving, sustainable, safe, harmonious and healthy society and world.
STEAM has something to offer every student. Unlike traditional academic experiences where these subjects are taught separately, a STEAM education teaches how they are all connected and relate to each other in the real world.
There’s a misconception that schools which follow a STEAM programme use iPads, interactive white boards and are solely science-focused. A STEAM education is so much more than that! It’s not a subject. It is an engaging, hands-on interdisciplinary framework enabling teachers to encourage students to broaden their thinking and approach problem solving by taking risks, being creative and collaborating.
Why is a STEAM education so important?
Educators often identify 21st century learners as having five common characteristics:
- A broad, deep understanding of the world
- The ability to make interdisciplinary connections
- The ability to think creatively and critically
- The ability to communicate and collaborate with others
- The ability to create, evaluate, and utilise information
STEAM provides a very effective framework to foster these traits in young learners. This disposition is key to their future success – we can’t just be memorising solutions to problems that have already been solved! STEAM provides students with the opportunity to think critically and to approach problems from multiple perspectives.
What does a STEAM education look like at Canadian International School (CIS)?
The approach is integrated across the CIS curriculum from pre-kindergarten to Grade 12, as well as in co-curricular programmes such as robotics and coding. Teaching at CIS has been a really fullfilling role for me because I get to see firsthand how the STEAM programme truly challenges students to think outside the box!
From Grade 1, students are exposed to STEAM experiences in our amazing makerspace rooms. These are special areas filled with state-of-the art equipment, such as 3D printers and a newspaper styxx rolling machine, all purposely built in ways to facilitate STEAM experiences and inspire students to design, experiment, build and invent!
How does CIS integrate STEAM in kindergarten?
STEAM is an essential part of our Kindergarten programme, with the focus on laying a strong foundation – think the basics like the alphabet, colours and shapes – so that our students can engage in more sophisticated concepts in the future. Research shows it’s never too early to start a STEAM education!
Our arts integration specialist teachers have set up a kindergarten version of a makerspace room, filled with all types of reusable and recyclable materials for our youngest learners to build, explore and create.
Our new Outdoor Discovery Centre provides students with ample space to build and explore using natural materials, such as sticks, rope and logs. They grow plants in our garden and play water measurement activities in our mud kitchen, developing early science and mathematics skills.
Beginning in Pre-Kindergarten, our students work with an educational technology coach and their classroom teachers to develop basic technology skills using iPads that will help build the foundation for future technology-related learning.
What is the most rewarding part of your job at CIS?
It’s so rewarding to witness students experience that ‘aha’ moment when they make the connection between an abstract idea and the real world. It’s amazing when they learn a chemical formula in class and then realise it’s how toothpaste and laundry detergent is made. I get to see kindergarten students watch in awe as the seed they planted grows into a plant sprouting a tomato which they can now eat!
I truly believe that when students are inspired to try new things and take risks, they learn more and they learn better. It’s great to see students actively sharing the discoveries, designs and techniques they’ve learned with their fellow classmates – their enthusiasm, excitement and interest is contagious!
Can you recommend some STEAM activities parents can do with their young children at home?
The easiest type of STEAM experience parents can create for their children is their own DIY makerspace room! Don’t throw away old cardboard boxes, toilet rolls, plastic water bottles, caps and containers – save them! Here are some ideas for what your little ones can do with recycled material:
- Sort these materials by their physical properties and colour
- Cut, glue and build with them
- Use an iPad to take pictures and record movies of their creations using stop-motion apps, as well as record their voices talking about what they have made
Another great way to incorporate STEAM at home is to provide your kiddos with traditional building material, such as wooden blocks and LEGOs. LEGO now sells simple robotics kits that you can create and use with your child. For older children, two great TV shows featuring STEAM in action are MythBusters and Heston’s Feats. Be sure to also check out cool STEAM-related websites for inspiration, like code.org, tinkercad.com and exploratorium.edu. Happy learning!
Thanks Andrew! To find out more about CIS and its STEAM programme, be sure to sign up for their next Open House, mamas!
Canadian International School Lakeside Campus, 7 Jurong West Street 41, Singapore 649414, Tel: (+65) 6467 1732
Canadian International School Tanjong Katong Campus, 371 Tanjong Katong Road, Singapore 437128, Tel: (+65) 6345 1573