3 Ways to Teach STEAM in a Blended Learning Environment
Prior to March 2020, there had been many conversations about the benefits of minimizing screen time for young learners. Since the pandemic struck, educators and parents have had no choice but to rely on screens to reach and teach students. But screen learning is not always suited to the development of young learners, and it is not well suited to certain forms of learning. STEAM courses in particular, with their exploratory and experiential elements, can seem impossible to deliver in a distance learning model.
But with the right tools and the right approach, we can continue to engage our young learners in STEAM. Here’s how educators, whether they teach 100% virtual or in a blended learning environment, can teach STEAM concepts in a hands-on and fun way.
Base learning on practical manipulations
Jean Piaget, an influential educational theorist who explored how young children learn concepts, described their cognitive development as progressing in stages towards more abstract thinking. Children in preschool and the first years of primary school are in what Piaget called the “pre-operational” stage. They are anchored in the physical world and they engage with concepts through the objects and materials immediately at hand. Thinking about abstract concepts that are not immediately tangible to them is a cognitive skill that children only develop later.
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As a result, young learners aged 2-7 learn best by experimenting and engaging with concrete objects. When presenting new ideas, educators can base lessons on physical objects that students can touch, smell, and move in physical space. This is one of the reasons robotics is an effective way to introduce computer science, engineering, computational thinking, and critical thinking. The robot becomes a physical expression of the STEAM concepts presented by the teacher. If young students learn the basics of coding using a physical object such as a robot, they will be more success to build their own understanding of the abstract concepts of sequencing and algorithms.