STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) activities are the hot topic today. Classrooms and community groups are frequently offering classes that hit the STEM topics. I was a little stumped the first time I heard them described as STEAM. So what does that mighty little A stand for? Art!
Educators and scientists alike have realized that a profound part of science, technology, engineering and math discovery and development call for art. Have you ever noticed how sleek and beautiful today’s phones and laptops are designed? Or what about the modern-looking learning spaces? What about the great ways technology has pushed itself into the arts and crafts world? I believe that art is a very important factor of training our kids’ minds to be strong in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math. Here are a few ideas to spur your own STEAM thinking…
STEAM Activities for Homeschoolers
Sewing & Wood-working
Sewing is my top idea. Stop thinking of sewing as a little girl’s activity and begin to think of it as a soft and squishy version of architecture. Sewing causes the crafter to turn a flat, rather flexible object into a 3-d object by following text and other flat instructions (patterns). Wood-working is the same, except that the textile isn’t flexible. These two skills require the student to do things in a particular and precise order. Even simple projects can unlock a new way of thinking for a child (or adult!).
Concept Design Contests
Perhaps your co-op or other community group can host a concept design contest wherein the kids use things found in the home to design an answer to a particular problem. There are endless suggestions online, but a few are things like a floating rescue craft for a pet, a self-propelled vehicle made from the recycling bin items, and my all-time wish- a heated snow-shovel handle. Plan for spending limits, set boundaries on the types of materials to be used/not used, and size or weight restrictions when organizing your own contests. Kids are amazing designers when given the chance to be creative.
Make the kitchen messy and help your kids grow crystals, make edible beads for a movie-night necklace. Or start garden seeds indoors as the winter ends and design the garden on paper in advance. Research which plants grow well together. Try making rock candy and see what shapes you can force it to grow.
Ask a Librarian
Have you noticed that librarians are like a homeschooler’s superhero? If your library isn’t already offering cool things related to STEAM, ask if they could host a Science Series in which fiction stories lead to a fun STEAM activity. Perhaps the series could be grade or age appropriate and your co-op could act as a co-host with the local library. This would be a great winter activity or summer club.
Write a book/ Make a book
Join with countless others as they write a book in November. Take it a step further and actually make your book. Learn about binding, paper-making, layout and illustrating. It can be all hand-made or use a computer.
Once you put your thinking-cap on, almost any activity can be developed into a STEAM lesson. We just need to get used to the idea of taking what we are already learning about and putting into the framework on science, technology, engineering, art and math. Who knows? We could be teaching the next designer of something brilliant!
Lindsay Banton is a caffeinated mother to three great kids. She never expected to homeschool, but has found that it is a wonderful addition to their lifestyle and wouldn’t change it for the world. In addition to homeschooling, Lindsay works alongside her husband in campus ministry at a large university in Connecticut. She grew up in Virginia but has settled into life in New England, learning to love the long winters, cool springs, green summers and gorgeous autumns- and has built a boot collection to meet all the demands. She is currently blogging at www.oaksreplanted.blogspot.com.