The ABCs About STEAM

Back in the good old days, traditional curriculum involves rote learning and memorisation. These days, however, it’s all about having STEAM- an educational approach that integrates the areas of study in science, technology, entrepreneurship, arts and mathematics.

So what’s the fuss about and how does it help your child develop future-ready skills to thrive in the 21st century? Let’s take a look at the STEAM programme at Canadian International School (CIS), one of the leading international schools in Singapore to get a good idea.

Making connections to the real world

The reason for all the fuss is simple: as the economy evolves, there is an increasing need for science, technology, entreneurship and math. At Canadian International School (CIS), this is translated into a strong interdisciplinary STEAM programme that supports students’ natural curiosity and creativity on top of helping them understand how each discipline is connected and related in the real world.

Holistic learning approach to IB

STEAM is not actually a separate programme from the International Baccalaureate (IB) education offered at CIS. In fact, it’s a complementary learning approach that aims to help students develop a more holistic understanding of the world around them through the integration of different subjects and concepts.

Instead of sitting all day in the classroom listening to the teacher’s lecture like we used to do, STEAM empowers teachers to apply project-based learning that integrates five disciplines and creates an inclusive environment where everyone can learn and contribute at the same time. In fact, it’s much like the IB framework where students inquire, collaborate and discover connections between different disciplines.

At CIS, this is all done within a state-of-the-art STEAM makerspace that’s designed to foster a culture of teamwork, collaboration and design thinking with traditional and cutting-edge machinery. Sounds awesome, right?

Learning out of the box

For instance, you might think that geometry is purely mathematics right? What if we tell you that there are other ways to pass on the knowledge? In a STEAM lesson on geometry, the teacher might introduce the concept of Pi through circle art, a programming language or even baking cookies! Even if you are not a fan of learning mathematics when you were younger, we think you’d definitely be a more willing (and happier) learner had STEAM been introduced back then. That’s the beauty of integrating and making practical connections between different disciplines.

Arts for the win

Have you ever come across the term ‘STEM’ and wondered how it’s different from STEAM? Well, the ‘A’ stands for the arts– a discipline that we think rounds out STEM nicely and gives it the extra x-factor that allows its learners to stand out in a competitive economy. The reason for it is simple: arts provides students with the creative thinking and design skills that will help them apply their STEM knowledge in a more effective manner. In other words, you want progressive non-linear thinkers who are ever evolving and adapting to the changing world.

Take this CIS grade 9 student for example. For his art project, he created a kinetic constructivist sculpture based on the ideas of the short-lived but influential Russian Constructivist movement. Save for the motor, the entire sculpture (even the gears!) was made entirely from cardboard. Colour us impressed, but this is the perfect example of STEAM skills, form following function (a principle associated with architecture and industrial design) and non-linear thinking.

Mastering the mindset of success

Another thing that may confuse you is the fact that CIS chose “Entrepreneurship” as part of its STEAM learning approach instead of “Engineering”. There is nothing wrong with it, of course, as both disciplines have their own merits. Entrepreneurship is believed to create new jobs, generate new wealth and spearhead social change, so it’s a valuable trait to have.

But entrepreneurship is not only about setting up your own business, it’s also the mindset and motivation to influence and change the world for the better. Take Kiki K, a CIS 2010 alumna, for example. Instead of heading to university like most people, she chose to launch her own business and become the first Taiwanese female driver to test a formula car. Kiki is an inspiring story why sometimes the road to success and a fulfilling life is not straight ahead, but by navigating the meandering scenic route of STEAM.

So full STEAM ahead, parents! Have fun choosing an international school that will equip your child with the best tools to navigate the jobs, challenges and experiences of tomorrow.