I have a strong bias: I think every child in America should receive a K12 education that includes both technology and engineering - in the regular classroom. K12 education provides the foundational skills from which students choose their careers and in today’s world, a foundational education must include all the ingredients of STEAM, Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics.
I have visited with many teachers who say their school district provides STEAM education, only to find that the school offers technology and engineering as optional high school classes or there is an optional after-school competitive robotics team. Most K12 schools in my area provide computers to all students, but are not providing technology and engineering education for all students. Does your local school say they teach STEAM, but instead they provide S(science) A(arts) M(mathematics) education for all students and T(technology) and E(engineering) for some (or none)?
Did you know that there are high quality technology and engineering educational materials readily available for students of all ages? Take a look at the reusable robotics competition kits from FIRST LEGO®️ League (FLL). Each year a new competition is released. Teams not only design and build a sensor based, programmable robot, but they also complete a science based research and design project. FLL competitions include engineering, technology, creativity, reading, writing, science, mathematics, problem-solving, presentations and team-work. Each year, FLL provides a well-developed, 100% reusable, project-based STEAM education, in a kit. Past FLL competition kits are often sitting on a shelf or in storage. These kits could be directly incorporated into project based classrooms or traditional schools that don’t have project based classes, could include a STEAM class (with robotics) in the rotation for art, music and gym.
Another option for STEAM is reuse of FIRST or VEX IQ competition kits. These competition kits are partially reusable, partially consumable. The base robots, the competition field and themed challenge can be reused, but modifications to the robots will result in additional supply budget each time the class is run. A required section of STEAM shop class is often feasible for eighth graders. During competition season, students might not learn both technology and engineering, but when FIRST and VEX IQ are taught in the classroom, all of the technology and engineering components become required for all students.
Not interested in classrooms with FLL, FIRST or VEX? Pick another quality robotics program. Be careful in your selection: inclusion of robots does not mean inclusion of technology and engineering. Look for robots that include a strong engineering component and also have a requirement for every student to learn programming with interactive sensors. A quality STEAM robotics curriculum will also embed strong educational components for reading, writing, math and science. Finances can be a concern for schools, so I recommend intentional selection of robots that can be reused.
Problems to overcome to see STEAM in the K12 classroom:
Can K12 SAM (Science, Arts and Mathematics) education be upgraded to K12 STEAM education? We already provide K12 students with competitive robotics, but until public schools teach STEAM for all, we have technology and engineering for some. Schools need to provide all kids with a foundational STEAM education. Share what you know. Get involved. Together we can move our educational system from: SAM for all and STEAM for some--->STEAM for all.
This blog was written by Christine, a volunteer and judge at FIRST events. If you are interested in blogging for FIRST Ladies, click here to sign up on the schedule!
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