STEM Education, the Foundation of Every Makerspace



It is no secret that students today need to be prepared to enter post-secondary education or the workforce after high school, understanding how to solve real-world problems. As a result, there has been an enormous shift in educational curriculum over the last decade to include what is known as STEM education, which allows students to be hands-on and learn critical thinking and problem-solving skills.


STEM curriculum includes Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. In addition, many school systems have adopted a slightly broader initiative known as STEAM, adding Arts to the mix. Due to this shift in how student learning and evaluation occurs, our team at PicoSolutions is partnering with individuals and institutions to provide high-quality STEM and STEAM education resources through mentorships, training, and our makerspace curriculums. However, before we talk about the innovation makerspaces bring to classrooms, let's dive deeper into what STEAM education entails.


STEAM education is a teaching approach that combines science, technology, engineering, math, and the arts. The arts help to expand the limits of STEM education and application. STEAM encourages discussions and problem-solving among students, developing practical skills and an appreciation for collaborations. STEAM is a way of learning that integrates different subjects through hands-on troubleshooting exercises that allows students to experiment, problem solve and draw conclusions with the support of educators. This way, students learn about relevant things in the world around them.


As STEAM programs gained momemtum, the Obama administration announced the "Educate to Innovate" campaign back in 2009 to try and get more students interested in STEAM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics). As a result, the Department of Education now offers several programs that support STEAM education. These include research programs with a STEAM emphasis, grant selection programs for STEAM education, and general programs that support STEAM education.


STEAM education is essential to fill the needs of a changing world. According to research, millions of STEAM jobs remain unfilled in the United States. Therefore, efforts to fill this skill gap are of great importance. Additionally, there is a projected growth of STEAM-related occupations of 10.5% between 2020 and 2030 compared to 7.5% in non-STEAM-related occupations. The median wage in 2020 was also higher in STEAM occupations ($89,780) compared to non-STEAM occupations ($40,020). This wage gap continues to exist.


LEARNING THROUGH STEM EDUCATION AND STEAM


STEAM education differs from traditional science and math education because it uses a blended learning environment. This means that students learn in different ways and through different activities. STEAM also teaches how to investigate and solve problems using the scientific method. As mentioned before, STEAM education starts young:


Elementary School: STEAM education focuses on introductory-level STEAM courses. The courses provide students with standards-based, inquiry-based, and problem-based learning. This connects all five of the STEAM subjects. The goal is to interest students in these subjects, so they want to pursue more courses in STEAM. There is also an emphasis on connecting in-school and out-of-school STEAM learning opportunities.


Middle School: The courses become more rigorous and challenging at this stage. Student awareness of STEM fields and occupations is still pursued, as well as the academic requirements of such fields. Student exploration of STEM-related careers begins at this level, particularly for underrepresented populations.


High School: This program of study is designed to challenge students and help them learn about the subjects rigorously. There are now courses and pathways available in STEM fields and occupations, as well as preparation for post-secondary education and employment. Additionally, more emphasis is placed on connecting in-school and out-of-school STEM opportunities.


MAKERSPACES


Regardless of age or grade level, much of STEM education is taught in classrooms known as makerspaces. Other names can be hackerspaces, creativity labs, or tech shops. The hands-on approach to STEM education is helping educators foster a more profound passion for science, technology, and mathematics. This is done by allowing students to experiment and create things with their hands.


Throughout the educational landscape, many trends are taking hold and driving the next stage of evolution in makerspaces and the growth of STEM/STEAM classes. Here’s what educators, administrators, and parents need to know about how these creativity labs could benefit their students.


Makerspaces offer schools the opportunity to go beyond books and lectures. In these spaces, students can get hands-on experience with different skills like cybersecurity and coding. Makerspaces also reflect the larger societal interest in hacking, inventing, and exploring the potential of new technologies. As a result, makerspaces are getting more support from parents, community members, and organizations. This comes in the form of donations, teaching, and other types of support. In many ways, this engagement helps improve students' educational experiences in makerspaces and turns a makerspace into a connection between the education system and the larger interested community.


Different schools have different ways of setting up their creativity labs and makerspaces. Some schools have very elaborate labs with lots of cool gadgets and artwork. Other schools might not have as many things in their lab, but they make up for it with creative projects that the students and instructors produce. Makerspaces are helping educators and schools connect with students in the classroom.


Makerspaces can be used in a lot of different ways to help students learn. For example, policymakers and administrators want to ensure that the makerspaces are being used well and provide the most educational value possible. In addition, makerspaces can be easily integrated into many different courses and subjects. For example, students might use 3D printers to create props or set pieces for a theater class or literature class. This provides hands-on learning opportunities and helps students engage more in the material.


Districts are starting to create more & more makerspaces, but before you start a makerspace, think about what you want it to do. Make sure it meets the needs of your school and students. You can start small and then make more considerable changes if the space is successful. Also, makerspaces should be designed with sustainability and inclusivity in mind.


If you are interested in creating a makerspace or expanding one already existing, let our makerspace experts at PicoSolutions join your team to bring the best STEM/STEAM-focused makerspace trends to you. Reach out today!


Above: PicoSolutions Wind & Hydro Turbine Makerspace; Complete Package

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