The drive to improve take up of STEAM (STEM + Arts) subjects is forcing a rethink about the environments in which these subjects are taught.
With their mysterious fume cupboards, weird glass bottles plastered in ‘do NOT touch’ Hazchem symbols, the all-pervasive aroma of Bunsen burner and enigmatic lab technicians drifting around in white coats, your average science lab is a pretty intimidating place. It’s not somewhere that encourages you to ‘have a go’ because of the very real dangers a lab presents.
This lack of ownership over the scientific environment is perhaps one reason why students aren’t pursuing STEM subjects (to which Art has been added to acknowledge the need for creativity in conjunction with scientific discipline); they are intimidated and afraid of failure. Science subjects are perceived as ‘hard’ and, to avoid risking poor results, these subjects are eschewed in favour of subjects more likely to yield the desired grades. Creating a desirable environment which is engaging and fun can help overcome this resistance.
The Future Tech Learning Studio at The Holy Cross School
For example, technology and ICT are generally taught in fixed computer suites which get the job done but lack the flexibility that would enable collaboration and creative problem solving – essential skills for computer programmers and also where all the fun stuff happens. Mobile technology combined with a variety of agile furniture can revolutionise how computer science is perceived by students. They can make like Zuckerberg and huddle in groups to design an app or create their very own social network.
Schools are beginning to recognise that if they are going to inspire their students to embrace STEAM they need to provide environments where creativity, innovation and exploration can happen. The practical aspects of the holy trinity of science, biology, chemistry and physics, have to take place in a lab but much of the theory and experiments not involving fire and / or acid could be taught in an environment where collaboration, creativity and risk-taking are positively encouraged.
Holy Cross students studying robotics
One thing is certain, we need to encourage our students and make them feel confident in their ability to take on science and win. Click here to read about one trail blazing school that has done just that’ with a click through to the case study.
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