The current American education system was created at a time when the United States was a dominate economic power throughout the world. Students were educated to serve the workforce with a lifetime skill. The disciplines of science, technology, engineering, arts, and math were taught separately, each in its individual box with little overlap.
This educational system is no longer serving us as our world ventures further into the 21st century. The United States ranks 14 in science and 17 in math out of 21 industrialized nations throughout the world. Only 45% of U.S. high school graduates in 2011 were ready for college work in math, while only 30 percent were ready in science.
But we aren’t just falling behind in the academic sense. Traditional education is failing to prepare students for the realities of tomorrow’s job market. All of the fastest growing occupations require more than the simple memorization of facts. They require critical thinking, reasoning skills, and the ability to learn and grow continuously – skills that are typically not emphasized in traditional education.
It’s clear that our system needs to change. In fact, it’s become an economic imperative.
Enter STEAM, the new educational paradigm that integrates the disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math with an emphasis on experimentation, critical thinking, and real-world problem solving.
STEAM education encourages students to become:
- Critical thinkers
- Problem solvers
- Good communicators
- Good collaborators
- Flexible and adaptable
- Innovative and creative
- Globally competent
At Saint Leo the Great School, we recognize the need for STEAM education and have invested in the teachers, resources and technology to integrate STEAM into our curriculum.
Mr. Panyik and Mrs. Alvarez have attended professional development workshops to help them understand STEAM careers and how to implement interdisciplinary problem-based learning activities that are focused on innovation, problem solving, analyzing, and inventing through real-world contexts.
The STEAM classroom is more like a lab – a place for activity and student-centered work with an emphasis on inquiry, design, and problem-solving. Students are actively involved in identifying problems and finding solutions as a team. Additionally, students are doing original research that leads to data analysis that will help in the designing and testing of models or prototypes.
Our students learn how to learn from their failures as they work together dealing with the messiness of authentic, real world problems. Students in fourth through eighth grade are invited to participate in our 1 hour per week STEAM classes. These students have been identified with high cognitive abilities.
Our STEAM Lab is currently housed in our convent where we store readily-available materials that act as a catalyst for inquiry, as well as modern technology and items that encourage invention. All of our teachers use this space with their students because we believe our learners should do more than consume information. They are learning to use it to innovate, explore and create.