STEAM Education at a Distance
Adapting to COVID-19 has been tough for everyone. This is a special callout to teachers and students who must reimagine their lesson plans for distance learning. Educating kids via internet connection comes with a unique set of challenges, not least is providing a standardized learning experience to kids, each of which is in a different learning environment from the other. Going to school from the comfort of home sounds like it should be every child’s dream, but the reality has shown itself to be quite different. However, the skill and dedication teachers and educators demonstrate every day is truly inspiring.
Those in education have proven themselves to be more than up to the challenge of navigating the twists and turns of distance learning, showing remarkable creativity and the ability to innovate on an ongoing basis to give their students a classroom experience they can rely on—no matter how unorthodox that classroom might be.
For STEAM schools the obstacles posed by distance learning are even trickier to overcome. That said, STEAM teachers have an advantage when it comes to navigating those obstacles given that implementing and executing STEAM curriculum requires educators to harness the power of their imaginations before they ever stand in front of a classroom and ask their students to do the same. Sometimes, even the most creative STEAM teacher needs an assist in implementing their newly designed distance-learning curriculum—and at Pellets Inc., we’re happy to help.
STEAM Schools vs. STEM Schools: What’s the Difference?
By now, most of us have heard about STEM classes or STEM programs. Simply put, they’re classes, curriculums or whole schools that are focused on the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Not only do STEM programs teach to these areas, but they also take an integrated approach. For instance, STEM classes don’t just have students take math and science courses, they also explore the ways in which those subjects might intersect in the workforce. In short, it’s a practical means by which to prepare students for future careers in STEM fields.
STEAM education checks all of those boxes—and takes the curriculum one step further, integrating art and literacy into the mix. STEAM programs recognize that real life problem-solving requires more than just practical logical skills and often incorporates the type of creative thinking found in more artistic pursuits. STEAM academies marry the information-based approach of STEM with the exploratory thinking and sense of imagination that makes creating art so satisfying and worthwhile. STEM teaches a budding architect how to draw the blueprint, but STEAM gives them the skill set to envision the bold and beautiful building design.
Owl Pellets at the STEAM Academy
When it became clear that COVID-19 would keep kids and teachers out of classrooms and learning would be happening virtually, the scramble to adapt began. In some ways, the innovative approach STEAM schools were already taking made them ideal candidates to be successful under this new and definitely different learning paradigm. However, the integrative and hands-on lessons that are so important to STEAM education posed particular challenges.
Recently, an educator at a STEAM school reached out to illustrate some of what STEAM teachers are up against. “We are a STEAM school and have a fully integrated program of units of study where literacy and math are taught through science, engineering, and the arts,” she said. “Students spend very little time passively listening to instruction; rather they are up and out of their seats working on projects, experiments, etc. Distance learning has been hard because it’s loads of screen time.”
As part of their STEAM program, students study the food chain using owl pellets as a vital visual learning tool. Not wanting to deprive the second-graders of this opportunity, the school asked Pellets Inc. if we could help. Our commitment to education and belief in the learning value owl pellets provide, combined with our own extensive experience with hands-on research, meant we were ready to rise to the challenges posed by undertaking the STEAM program pellet project at a distance.
“At first, I didn’t think the second-grade teachers were going to be able to do the culminating food chain activity with owl pellets in the distance-learning mode, but I’m glad they’re going to give it a try,” she said. “The kids really enjoy it and learn so much. A lot of our planning right now is being done on the fly because of ever-changing circumstances with COVID-19. You and Alan’s cheerful and superb customer service in supporting our kids within three hours of my first call—wow!—is very, very much appreciated.”Life during the COVID-19 pandemic has required constant adjustment and adaptation for teachers and students alike. But educators need not go it alone. At Pellets Inc., helping to create fun, hands-on learning opportunities—even at a distance—is at the core of what we do. Browse our STEAM educational tools today for ideas, experiments and other educational resources!