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Unleashing the Power of STEAM in the Inquiry Classroom

In the ever-evolving world that we live in educators are put in a position where we must ensure the pedagogy that we teach is relevant, up-to-date, and reflective of the students in front of us. The landscape of education is constantly changing and the inquiry-based approach is one that I believe educators should explore. This is because of its ability to foster critical thinking, problem-solving, and a deep understanding of concepts.

When inquiry-based learning is coupled with STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics), this teaching method becomes a powerhouse, providing students with a dynamic and engaging learning experience.

If you ask me, STEAM education and inquiry-based learning go hand in hand! STEAM encourages students to explore, question, and solve real-world problems through the lens of science, technology, engineering, art, and math. Integrating STEM into the inquiry classroom amplifies the benefits of both approaches and creates a relationship that nurtures curiosity and innovation.

There is so much you can do as an inquiry teacher when it comes to integrating STEAM. My goal as an inquiry teacher is to ensure that all students are engaged and that the real-world relevance of what we are learning is transparent. STEAM subjects naturally lend themselves to real-world applications. By incorporating STEAM into the inquiry classroom, we can present students with challenges that mirror authentic problems faced in various industries, communities, and people on a local, national, or even global level. This not only makes learning more relevant but also instills a sense of purpose and urgency in students' minds.

Not only does STEAM allow the inquiry classroom to create cross-curricular connections but STEAM also emphasizes a hands-on, experiential learning approach which is a perfect match for the inquiry classroom. Through this kind of learning, students can apply their knowledge to real-life situations. This not only enhances their understanding but also cultivates essential skills such as teamwork, communication, and once again, critical thinking. Both STEAM and inquiry foster a problem-solving mindset which is why they work so well together. By combining these two teaching styles and ideas, you can guide students in developing the skills needed to tackle complex challenges.

But how do we do this?

The image above is the STEAM cycle. If you look closely you can see that this cycle resembles the inquiry process (to the right). If you are unsure of where or when you could be integrating STEAM in the inquiry classroom my first suggestion is always to begin with using a STEAM activity as a PROVOCATION.

A provocation should be inviting and engaging for the students. Using a STEAM activity as a provocation in the inquiry classroom acts as a dynamic stepping stool for curiosity and exploration.

By introducing hands-on, cross-curricular activities in the provocation stage that integrate various elements of STEAM, educators can capture students' attention and stimulate their curious minds.

One example of a STEAM activity that can serve as a provocation in the inquiry classroom is the "Rube Goldberg Machine Challenge." In this activity, students are tasked with designing and building a complex, multi-step machine that accomplishes a simple task through a series of reactions. The challenge incorporates various elements of science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. Students begin by identifying a basic task, such as turning off a light switch or popping a balloon, and then work collaboratively to design a Rube Goldberg Machine that achieves this goal using a sequence of interactions.

While the students create their machines it's your turn to keep your eyes and ears open for conversations. This is where you begin making connections to the curriculum and planning your next steps. Some easy connections to look out for:

  • Are the students measuring? ✔️ MATH CONNECTION

  • Are the students doing research? ✔️ LITERACY CONNECTION

  • Are the students debating and coming up with a plan? ✔️ LITERACY CONNECTION

  • Are the students exploring different materials? ✔️ SCIENCE CONNECTION

  • Are the students collecting and documenting their ideas and research? ✔️ SCIENCE & LITERACY CONNECTIONS

  • Are the students communicating their connections to the ideas they are sharing? Are they sharing a story about what it reminds them of? ✔️ LITERACY AND SOCIAL STUDIES CONNECTIONS

  • Are the students building, designing, creating, and using organizers of their choice? ✔️ MATH, LITERACY, SCIENCE AND SOCIAL STUDIES CONNECTIONS

The list goes on and on...


Rube Goldberg machine - THE ART OF INQUIRY
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If you want to know more about inquiry in the classroom, reach out!

- Lidia

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