Many countries are currently putting much emphasis on the need to prepare students for higher education and equip them with the necessary skills and knowledge needed in this 21st century. To achieve this goal, learning institutions have adopted the STEAM approach, where they nurture students around the subjects of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math. This has gained popularity with all the players in the education sector, including educators, students, parents and even the US president. STEAM is viewed as a means to create a long-lasting interest in arts and sciences right from an early age. The subjects categorized under STEAM are somewhat similar, in that they all involve creative processes in the investigation of the subject matter. It is very important to teach such skills to students so as to prepare them for innovation in this ever-evolving world. This will benefit both the students and the nation at large. (USD, 2018)
The PD implementation plan is meant to cultivate critical thinking in students as well as problem solving skills and creativity. It also makes students ready to work in the vibrant 21st century work environment. (USD, 2018). The two theories of constructivism and cognitivism will be of much use in the PD plan.
Morrison, McDuffie and French (2015) studied the essentials of STEAM in schools. They found out that both teaching and learning were problem based and centered on inquiry. This environment motivated students and improved their social interactions and collaboration. Laforce et al. (2016) outlined the 8 essentials of STEM in high schools:
1. Personalization of learning
2. Problem-based learning
3. Rigorous learning
4. Career, technology and life skills
5. School community and belonging
6. External community
7. Staff foundations
8. External factors
All these represent the goals and strategies applied by pro-STEM high schools across the country. Thus, a clear picture is formed of what is meant by inclusive STEM schools. These same elements will be included in the implementation plan.
Support for the plan
STEAM programs are diverse in many ways. They are as such the foundation for innovation given that they start at the grassroots levels. Take for instance the Art of Science which is based in Memphis, Tennessee. It basically seeks to unite artists and scientists, and thus communicate the beauty of science through art. Descience on the other hand aims at inspiring fashion designers through scientific discovery.
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Ligo Project is one more avenue for bringing together scientists and artists. They run a six months program in which artists are paired up with scientists to create pieces of art that are inspired by science. Such projects are mostly exhibited during the Art of Science Gallery Night. STEAM has had support even from professional societies, one of them being American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB). They see STEAM as one effective method to interface with the residents. The Committee for Postdocs and Students (COMPASS) helps support STEAM projects through their outreach grants. One such program is the EURICA (Emerging Undergraduate Research-Inspired Cell Art. This is a multidisciplinary science program aimed at raising the interest of students for science. (Hegedus, Segarra, Allen, Wilson, Garr, & Budzinski, 2016) One time the students carried some science experiments and were afterwards required to craft some piece of art based on their experience. Margaret Corbit presented a similar example at CESTEMER 2014. She elaborated on the use of 3D virtual worlds to inspire creativity in children and increase their involvement in challenging projects. (Corbit, Bernstein, Kolodziej, & McIntyre, 2006) The above-mentioned STEAM outreach projects have made the trainees consider taking careers in science. The programs have also bridged the gap between the community and scientists.
Daugherty, Carter, & Swagerty (2014) emphasized the need for teachers to prepare PSTs so as to integrate the different STEAM disciplines. In addition, Frykholm and Glasson (2005) proposed that science and mathematics teachers be taught pedagogical strategies to help them address overlapping content and show the connection between the different content areas. If the teachers do not have such interdisciplinary experiences during their training, they will most likely not integrate content in their futures classes. (Daugherty, Carter, & Swagerty, 2014; Kurt & Pehlivan, 2013)
Theories of Learning
Every behavior exhibited by any human is backed up by some underlying thought process. This is basically what the theory of cognitivism states. The theory has it that humans normally process any kind of information they receive before acting. Human beings do not just subconsciously respond to stimuli. The cognitivism theory likens the learner’s mind to a mirror, from where he can reflect new ideas. The learner will normally seek to understand how the information he receives affects him. This is best done by comparing the new information with what is already stored in the learner’s subconscious.
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