STEM to STEAM Learning: Learning Science in the 21st Century

STEM to STEAM Learning: Learning Science in the 21st Century

 This article is the first of the series of five articles on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) to STEAM (‘Arts’ added to STEM) learning. STEM is everywhere and it shapes our everyday experiences. STEM education is vital to our future, the future of our country, and the future of our children. But, STEM is basically logic driven learning.

Research and data have shown that activities like Arts, support and foster creativity, which is essential to innovation. The combination of superior STEM education combined with Arts education (STEAM) can provide us with the education system that will give us the chance to regain the innovation leadership essential to the new economy. STEM education is necessary but it is not sufficient and we must have STEAM education. In this first article of the series, we will discuss about the first component of STEAM learning that is, Science.

There is no doubt that the role of Science in modern society is changing. The challenges we face as a community be it at a global level such as dealing with climate change or at local level such as environmental degradation, all depend on Science. There is no challenge affecting our society that doesn’t require Science to find an appropriate solution. The nature of Science has changed, rather than dealing with simple systems, Science is dealing with complex issues. Modern day Science education has several distinct objectives:

  • One is the same traditional role of providing children with the knowledge of Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Math which can be categorized as pre-professional education.
  • Children should have the basic practical knowledge of how things work.
  • Children should have knowledge of how scientific process operates and have some level of scientific literacy so they can take an informed participatory role in Science-related decisions.
  • Children should have knowledge of scientific thinking as part of their development of general intellectual skills.

These objectives are more citizen-focused and are quite distinct in their nature and in their pedagogical basis from traditional objectives of Science education for children. The basic modern Science education should also aspire to engage students in understanding of how the scientific process operates and encourage them to think about the socio-scientific challenges facing the society. Modern Science education should offer a rich context for developing many 21st-century skills, such as critical thinking, problem solving, and information literacy especially when instruction addresses the nature of Science and promotes use of Science practices. These skills not only contribute to the development of a well-prepared workforce for the future but also give individuals life skills that help them succeed.

21st century Science education should support 21st-century skills consistent with best practices across a Science education system, including curriculum, pedagogy, teacher preparation and professional development. For Science education in the 21st century:

  • Science leaders should cultivate 21st-century skills that best align to good Science teaching.
  • Students should meet the standards for scientific inquiry and technological design.
  • Students should have a complete, accurate and working understanding of the nature of Science.
  • There must be ongoing professional development opportunities and effective pre-service and induction programs for Science educators to help support the integration of 21st-century skills in classroom teaching.
  • Quality inquiry-based curricula and support materials to promote Science learning and 21st-century skills.
  • Assessments should be aligned with 21st-century curriculum and instruction, and appropriately measure students' progress toward skills acquisition in addition to mastery of core content.
  • A wide range of technologies which serve as tools to engage students with real-world problem solving, conceptual development, and critical thinking.
  • Instruction should include a variety of opportunities for students to investigate and build scientific explanations, such as laboratory experiences.
  • Science leaders should build on the opportunities that already exist in school programs and teaching practices to support 21st-century skills.

We need to continue making progress in teaching understanding Science as a hands-on, interactive process. We need to further alter both the perception of Science and the culture of Science itself to invite all students into an ongoing and shared process of telling, listening to, and modifying stories. We need to redesign curricula to present Science not as an isolated and distinct sphere of activity but rather as an integral part of educational experiences.

The next article of this series will talk about learning Technology in the 21st century. Share your views and further knowledge on the context. The Comment Box awaits you.


About the Author
Author: Saomya Saxena
Educational technology blogger, loves to research and write about tools and tips for educators on how to integrate technology into everyday instruction creatively and effectively. Fond of reading and writing.

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