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Blog
28th Jun

2017

Energy Literacy: STEM to STEAM

Have you heard or seen the term “STEAM” more often recently? It refers to including Arts in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM + Arts = STEAM) In Anchorage, the STrEaM Academy operated for the first year during the 2016-2017 school year, and I had activities at several STEAM nights in the Anchorage and Mat-Su School Districts.

While art is being increasingly cut from school budgets, bringing art into other subject areas can benefit both students and teachers. Presenting the material in a different way can engage students who might not normally be interested by traditional labs. I will always remember the lesson when my science teacher had us design our own “creature” as part of a genetics unit in high school biology. Any time there is more student engagement, that of course benefits the teacher. Drawing our own invented animal was just part of the project – we also wrote down the traits, their benefits to the environment, and whether they were dominant or not. My unicorn-like creature had spikes on the bottom of it’s feet so it wouldn’t slip on the ice. I don’t remember if they were homozygous or heterozygous, dominant or recessive, but I do remember what all those terms mean – as I’m sure my teacher would be happy to hear.

In energy literacy, there are many ways to integrate arts into STEM lessons. In engineering projects for example, keep in mind that design can be part of arts. Even showing students books of architecture design that sell as art on Amazon can show students that engineering-related jobs aren’t just for the linear-minded. There are more concrete ways to include art in lessons, however. For K-2 students, the AKES lesson “Energy Collage” (above) gets the students hands-on with energy principles. Performance is also part of the arts, and the 3-5 lesson “Energy Pathway’s Reader’s Theater” might engage your gregarious, outgoing students in energy topics.

Bringing in an elder to talk about the science and energy of making moose-hide clothing could be an important part of a unit (how are they treated? What was the energy it took to hunt and butcher the moose, and all the steps in between before the clothing could be made?). Be aware of the culturally appropriate ways to invite and include an elder, as outlined by the Alaska Native Knowledge Network. You can also read their handbook for culturally responsive science curriculum here.

Help your and your students’ creative sides by including art and design in your classroom when talking about energy. To learn more about the STEM to STEAM movement in the US, and research on it’s effectiveness, go to stemtosteam.org.

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