Incorporating STEAM into Other Curricular Areas

This is part of a series of posts from nominees for our LifeChanger of the Year educator recognition program. We meet scores of fascinating LifeChangers every year who have interesting perspectives to share about children, education and life.

As teachers, my colleagues and I all want to be able to add the latest and greatest educational premise into our classrooms, but many times with the many initiatives thrown at us, just one more seems to tip the scale.

STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) can be intimidating when first brought to the minds of teachers. Those who feel that is not their best content knowledge area may approach with trepidation, and rightfully so.

I bring a passion and love of science and the arts. I also represent our building as the technology lead. So I found it easier to fit in the two missing pieces than others. But still, finding ways to incorporate these topics into all curricular areas was a struggle. I personally would love to play in a maker’s space for an hour each day, but feasibly, that isn’t going to happen.

Here are some ways I have found to work these skills in to every -and I do mean every -curricular area.

  • Reading/Language Arts/Comprehension/Writing. The most obvious would be to utilize non-fiction texts that would be based in a STEAM area, but why be obvious. Use these books and have the students work to sequence an experiment or better yet, recreate it. I have also had students research famous inventors and write about their research. We have created informational books with step by step instructions on recreating famous experiments as well.
  • Math. This one is fairly obvious – it is in the acronym STEAM – but other than breaking out rulers or solving math equations, how can you reach the other topic areas? I have found that, yes, you do need the equations. But one of the biggest areas of growth falls in problem solving. By allowing time for research and following the engineering design process, students can adjust these skills when they attempt and break out a word problem. If you look through the Math Teaching Practices, it is evident that they clearly align with a version of the engineering design process as well.
  • Social Studies. Yes, it can be done! This year during our geography unit, my students created a salt dough topographic map of Iowa. But the key was, they had to figure out the best recipe and it was constant calculations and trial and error. We spent much of our time in the “improve” phase. It can be done with any version of Social Studies, though. Maps are just the stand out.
  • Specials- Art/Music/PE. Now, again STEAM is arts, so obviously it would seem evident that Art and Music can find other areas incorporated. But PE? Yes, our PE teacher and I have worked closely this year in finding ways to work through STEAM areas in PE. We go to the gym frequently to solve problems or work on experiments. We will be starting a measurement unit soon, which I am sure will bring wonderful things, also!

This year had been a trial year and I dove into the deep end with several grants and programs through ISU and the Science Center of Iowa. But it can start with one subject, one week. Don’t let STEAM and the greatness that it can bring out in students, allow you to shy away from it.

Learn more about Sarah Kelly on her LifeChanger of the Year profile.