STEAMing in History

STEAM (Science – Technology – Engineering – Arts – Mathematics) is a derivative of STEM (Science – Technology – Engineering – Mathematics) and is a concept that has been embraced by education as a way to bridge a gap in student learning and to prepare students for the projected growth in STEM jobsSTEAM in a classroom is often seen as a project where students will create an artifact that complements their learning. STEAM projects bring all the academic disciplines together which creates a dynamic learning opportunity for students.

What is often overlooked is how the STEAM concept can be implemented on a regular basis in a non-STEM/STEAM class like History. The project based learning that is at the core of STEAM learning is a great tool because it merges the academic disciplines into a single activity where the students draw on their knowledge from different classes to complete the activity. However, STEAM does not have to be a larger project, but rather, it could be an integrated activity that brings in a new perspective on learning.

STEAM is a part of real life and it is a part of history. Incorporating STEAM brings life into history because inventions that have made our world better used STEAM components. As we discuss turning points in history there is almost always a scientific or technological breakthrough at the center. Connecting students to what are real life STEAM projects validates the projects and activities they do in class.

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A student is using STEAM skills as she builds
a working telegraph. (Photo by Dennis Dill)

STEAM activities can help students express their thoughts about history and in some cases, can help them replicate items from history. The replication or art infusion can help students connect a meaningful memory to their learning.The notion that the integration of Art into the History curriculum is not just about making the activity look pretty. When analyzing history, it is easy to overlook the role Art plays in understanding the past. The written word may give use the names and dates, but Art presents the soul of history. For example, Paul Revere’s image of the Boston Massacre depicts the event, but he used some creative license to help sway popular opinion. Using Art, whether it is paintings, music, dance, theatre, or singing can connect students with history in a new way and give them a different perspective on history.

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