Seated around tables in the media center at The Learning Community at Broadalbin-Perth, approximately 20 second-graders excitedly talked about what they achieved during their previous meeting: Programming a robotic car to draw a shape. Constructing a replica lighthouse using snap-together toy tiles. Building a roller coaster that carried an object from Point A to Point B.
Then it was time for the students, all members of the school’s STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) Club, to break out their building materials, and the chatter immediately became much different: “How does it do that?” “Why can’t I get this to work?” “This is so neat!”
Under the direction of TLC teachers Sandy Sullivan and Tammy Staie, students in STEAM Club work in groups to solve problems, meet challenges, test theories, and achieve their goals.
During the STEAM Club meeting that took place Thursday, Oct. 19, students worked at different stations. At one station, students used Legos to build scenes and develop stories that take place in those scenes. At another station, students took turns programming a Pro-Bot car to carry a marker and draw shapes on a piece of paper, while others used a pool noodle, rubber bands, markers and an electric toothbrush to create a different kind of automatic art machine. Next to the metal fire-exit door, students used magnetic rails to create a series of ramps designed to carry a toy gear from the top to the bottom of the structure. Other students used a variety of toy building materials to replicate real-life structures or create new structures born from the students’ imaginations.
In recent years, there has been a growing movement toward STEAM education in schools, and B-P is no exception. Students at all grade levels have extracurricular opportunities in such STEAM-related fields as robotics and rocketry, and the district is adding elective courses at the middle and high school levels in such subjects as marine biology and cybersecurity.
According to Change the Equation, a STEM education advocacy group, STEM jobs in the U.S. are expected to grow 13 percent by 2027, compared with 9-percent growth in non-STEM fields. In New York, unemployment in STEM fields is less than half that of unemployment in non-STEM fields, and median earnings for those in STEM fields is nearly twice that of those in non-STEM fields.
STEAM education is valuable even for those students who won’t end up in a STEM-related career field. STEAM activities help students learn to ask questions, draw connections, solve problems, work in teams, think creatively, and exercise innovation – all skills that are valued by most modern employers.