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Is There Another Way to Engage Learners in STEAM?


Building on the acronym ‘STEM’ (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), ‘STEAM’ merges the arts. The significance of incorporating the arts into STEAM has been recognised more recently and its role should not be undermined. Without the arts, which includes roles like a web or graphic designer, you begin to wonder how successful organisations would truly be.

Although mathematics and science remain popular study areas, it has been found that students are less involved, and potentially less interested, in the arts, technology and engineering. The digital arena rapidly evolving opens up new careers and encourages lifelong learning. Currently, STEAM roles typically fulfil the stereotype of being primarily a white male domain. This race and gender imbalance significantly impacts the success of STEAM; ways to combat and correct this should be an ongoing focus to achieve deeper integration, overlap and collaboration.

Actively Using Digital Platforms

Story-telling visuals in learning environments could illustrate a career journey; visuals could focus on women and the black, Asian and minority ethnic community. The story could highlight not only the individual’s success, but offer insight as to how they got to that stage of their career. Importantly, the content should not shy away from communicating failures and challenges along the way. This could be more relatable, encouraging and realistic for the individual watching. Through use of technology, West Calder High School in Scotland recognises the art of storytelling: the way it engages, motivates and impacts its audience. West Calder has utilised inspirational characters from a variety of sectors tailored to each department. For instance, writers in the English department, sportspeople near the gymnasium, and renowned scientists in the Science department. When using interactive graphics, techniques must be considered which ensure they are not passive, but engaging. Facilitating motion detectors could make the experience interactive and eye-catching. However, importantly, the content should be relevant as well as diverse.

Utilising Collaborative Spaces

Each year Space Zero – an organisation who specialise in designing learning environments – invest time and money into projects which they believe will provoke discussion and increase innovation. Space Zero have considered the idea of break out spaces near story-telling visuals to provoke discussion. Space Zero’s ideas have actively thought about ergonomics which facilitate options for relaxed discussion, observation opportunities through seating variation, and standing tables for brainstorming. West Calder High School additionally understand the significance of integration, overlap and collaboration across distinct fields to encourage discussion and generate interest. For instance, the mathematics and science department at West Calder provides a large singular learning space, with the option of folding screens to separate the disciplines. Evidence has indicated that the collaboration and overlap between the subject areas has generated more engaged learning.

Constantly updating story-telling content, with spaces nearby to encourage discussion and collaboration, may stimulate new ways of thinking. Offering inspiring content could be the foundation for assisting the next generation to re-evaluate their career aspirations, and succeed in the ever-evolving digital arena.

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