The A in STEAM

The A in STEAM

Over the past twenty years schools have been teaching the importance of STEM as we are being inundated in a digital world. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. The acronym was introduced by the National Science Foundation in 2001, but the origins of STEM go back more than 150 years, to the 1860s, when the US government invested in universities to teach agricultural sciences. In 2011, the United States National Research Council suggested including art to create STEAM education to promote more curricular integration between the subjects. This activity allows students the opportunity to create art from the science they will observe in a natural setting.  

Giving students an opportunity to write about nature turns an activity that is often lecture based and done in indoors into a dynamic activity with a new hands-on element. This new dimension can reach students who normally struggle coming up with new ideas in the classroom by giving them inspiration all around them. It also sparks creativity and connects science with artistic topics that can often be overlooked. This activity asks students to observe scenes in nature and then turn those observations into a play that the students will at out for their classmates. 

This activity begins with students writing a page of a nature journal. While this activity can be done without the need for a dedicated garden, having one would make this activity more fruitful, as a garden can attract wildlife that is not normally present. Once the students are brought into the outdoor area, they will be asked to make observations about what they see happening around them. Be sure to remind the students that observations are made using all five senses and not just their eyes. For younger learners, this can be adapted so that they make drawings of their observations and then add labels to the things they drew.  

Once the students have made a few observations on the plants and wildlife outdoors, they can return to the classroom and discuss what they observed in small groups, using their journal notes to guide them. Each group will be asked to turn their observations into a small play, giving personification to the things that don’t traditionally vocalize including trees and animals. Their play will need characters interacting, an event that connects them, and an ending. It can be as short as a bird gathering material for a nest or the entire life cycle of a butterfly. Using their observations from a single day, or notes from many days, students can be creative and produce an epic story! 

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