STEAM learning: European projects combining science and art

Image: Dmytro Zinkevych / Shutterstock.com

When Carl Jung introduced the archetype of the artist-scientist, or Albert Einstein traced science and art back to the same experience of the mysterious, they were echoing a long-held historical view: that the two fields are naturally connected. Thus, an A for Arts sits happily in the middle of the STEM acronym (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), which becomes STEAM: a modern, interdisciplinary approach to research and innovation that is now being taken up in school education. The following projects showcase some of its advantages!

Innovation starts with action! STEAM

Demand for STEM skills is on the rise and expected to grow until 2025: this is a reality that school teachers and school curricula have to take into account. The project Innovation starts with action! STEAM makes provisions for this future, adopting three novel approaches to increase student motivation and participation:

  1. Art-in-museum activities
  2. Use of Lego robots
  3. Combining all these activities in STEAM subjects

These approaches are especially well suited to primary school students who need to acquire basic skills in STEAM. The teachers have also used the project as a chance to further their professional development, for example by following an online course at the outset.

The project results will be shared via Web platforms, flyers, magazines, staff meetings, open-door exhibitions and, of course, the project website, which already has a vast collection of videos. See, for example, this video on the meeting in Belfast:

A video on Scratch:

And a video on robotics:

The project began in 2016 and will end in 2018; it involves seven countries  – Turkey (project coordinator), Italy, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Portugal, Romania, Spain and the United Kingdom – and was funded by Erasmus+.

DLAB: Digital Learning Across Boundaries

Digital technology, by its nature, challenges boundaries, whether physical (traditional classroom spaces) or conceptual (curriculum subjects). The DLAB project aims for a classroom that is similarly free and transversal. To accomplish this, it is exploring three “learning across boundaries” themes, one per year: Technology Outdoors, STEM to STEAM, and Technology-Enabled CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning).

The year 2018 is dedicated to STEAM, and many resources have already been posted in the resources section. Children can compare Leonardo da Vinci’s art and mechanical engineering projects before starting their own; they can build an egg-stronaut and predict whether their space capsules will provide the necessary protection; they can design their own solar panel or bridge; and they can create a CD similar to the gold disk NASA sent into space, to name just a few examples.

The project has also recently launched a free STEM to STEAM MOOC.

In the long term, DLAB aims to provide sustainability, enrich the partners’ capabilities, promote international collaborative work, even across sectors, and invoke active cooperation from cultural institutions and SMEs (small and medium enterprises).

It is a three-year strategic partnership (2016-2019), featuring four countries – Denmark (project coordinator), Belgium, Norway and the United Kingdom – and funded by Erasmus+.

FIND: Future Innovators, New Discoveries

The full title of FIND, Future Innovators, New Discoveries, speaks to its dual nature: it touches both on the identity of the STEM practitioners and on their practice. Its aims are the following:

  1. To close the gender gap
  2. To develop innovative teaching methods in STEAM subjects and to ensure that teachers are confident in using them
  3. To develop a methodology that makes best use of the latest technologies

The need for an intervention on the topic of gender equality is already clear from the project’s first activity, Draw a Scientist, where students overwhelmingly drew a male scientist. Other activities have sought to undo this prejudice, like the quiz What STEAM careers would I be suited to?, or the interviews with people in STEM careers, which gave the floor to women scientists.

Other training sessions have focused on modern teaching methods, and one of the partners even created a learning lab. The students have also been able to combine technology and art on many occasions: by coding in Scratch, drawing fractals, or trying their hand at robotics, for example.

FIND is a three-year strategic partnership (2016-2019) organised by Greece, Italy, Malta, Norway, Poland and the UK, and funded by Erasmus+.

To discover ongoing and past EU-funded projects in school education, please go to the Erasmus+ Project Results Platform.