Over the last few years, I’ve seen and heard a great deal in academic circles about the acronyms STEM and more recently STEAM. Our public libraries have even used the buzz about STEM/STEAM to direct their summer reading program activities. In case you haven’t heard of them, STEM represent the topics of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. STEAM simply adds Art to the list.
At this point you’re probably wondering what these topics have to do with history. And, I think the answer is simple, they have EVERYTHING to do with history!
Throughout history, advancements in the fields of science, technology, engineering, art, and math have changed the world. The people behind these advancements have been leaders in their fields, visionaries who took the time to learn and study the world around them then ask the hard questions about how that world worked and how they could help make it better.
Take Eli Whitney and the cotton gin or Johannes Gutenberg and the printing press for example. Two men on two different continents that saw a problem, found a solution to the problem, and their solution revolutionized the world as we know it.
If you’re a teacher or a homeschooler and you want to add a bit of historical learning to your lessons in these areas, it’s a simple tie to make. Add a biographical study on the lives of famous scientists, mathematicians, or artists, etc. to your studies. Study an invention that made a significant impact on the field your studying. If you’re learning about how computers work, learn about the first computers and their inventors. If you’re studying the cross-pollination of plants along with dominant and recessive genes, take a day to learn about Gregor Mendel and his revolutionary work with the cross-pollination of peas in the 1800s. The list could go on and on, but the point is this history is very easy to tie to STEAM learning and can be done in multiple ways depending on the subject at hand.
If you’d like a great book about some of the world’s great inventors, I can’t recommend Great Inventors and Their Inventions by Frank Bachman enough! I’ve created a short study guide to go along with it that’s full of photo cards featuring each of the inventors, invention cards featuring each of the inventions, a reading guide, and there’s a video companion to the book on our website with short videos about each invention. If you need the book, you can purchase a copy here or download a free digital version here, our study guide is available as part of the STEM + Art Bundle here, and our video companion is located here.
Below are some of my thoughts about STEAM, it’s a vast topic with many aspects that are so enjoyable to add to your chidren’s learning experiences!
Science, my lad, is made up of mistakes, but they are mistakes which it is useful to make, because they lead little by little to the truth. -Jules Verne
Science is one of our favorite subjects in our home. We love studying everything from astronomy to volcanoes and everything in between. Currently our "official" studies are about astronomy, but the times we've spent studying other topics always finds its way back into our daily lives and conversations. Recently we went on a long walk along a beautiful lake where encountered opportunities to discuss weather, bird identification, wildflowers, monarch migration, reptile identification, and so much more. Later that same day we talked about the phases of the moon and constellations. Some sciences are learned by experimenting and making mistakes, others are learned by studying and observing the world around us, all lead little by little to the truth.
Oh, and you better believe we're reading Verne's From the Earth to the Moon along with our astronomy studies right now!
Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution. -Albert Einstein
Technology can be such a hot topic for families, but I think like anything else, when used properly it can be an incredibly beneficial tool for learning and life. Even while cultivating a beautiful learning atmosphere of living books, nature studies, engaging history lessons, the feasts of poetry, art, and music, technology has always been in some way part of our homeschooling. We’ve watched videos, streamed folk songs and hymns, learned typing skills and so much more.
The use of technology allows our children’s interests to flourish…our daughter wrote and typed an 80+ page novel a couple of years ago, writes extensive history essays, and is learning to use photo editing software in conjunction with developing her photography skills. Our son transitioned from a love of pattern blocks, tangrams, and snap circuits to teaching himself to design projects on TinkerCad and now Blender.
Simple coding projects, learning about energy, and making scientific observations help for a foundation to these types of skills. Technology isn’t going away, it’s advancing almost daily at the speed of light still and it can play a beautiful and enriching role in our children’s educations.
Engineers like to solve problems. If there are no problems handily available, they will create their own problems. - Scott Adams
We’ve been studying bridges a bit this year, specifically the Golden Gate and the Bay Bridge as we’re reading through Richard Halliburton’s Book of Marvels. The fact that one day someone looked across the waters surrounding San Francisco and thought of such marvelous ways to make travel across the Bay easier amazes me. The amount of research, planning, designing, sourcing of materials and labor that went into building those 2 bridges is absolutely astounding.
Great inventors, great engineers are brilliant at thinking through problems and coming up with excellent solutions to them for the world to enjoy.
“To be an artist is to believe in life.” – Henry Moore
Art education is actually one of my favorite topics and I NEVER learned about fine art until college. When I was growing up we did art in school…most of it with crayons and markers and cheap waterpaints. In high school I took an art class and learned all about charcoals, pastels, oil pastels, various types of paint, perspective drawing and more. I found out one thing, I LOVED it!
My freshman year of college I took an art history class and was amazed at all of the beauty that artists had created for us to enjoy over the centuries. I love visiting art museums and jump at the chance to see some of the world’s greatest works of art. I’ve seen Claude Monet’s watercolors, stared into Mona Lisa’s face, then beheld Paolo Veronese’s Wedding Feast of Cana. And I love introducing our children to the great artists and their work whether it’s through studies at home or finding traveling exhibits that feature great works and falling in love with art all over again with our children.
I’m not sure when the folks that thought up STEM decided to add Art to it and call it STEAM, but I think it was a great idea!
Mathematics is not about numbers, equations, computations, or algorithms: it is about understanding. –William Paul Thurston
This quote says it all. Math is about understanding relationships between numbers, between space and shapes, between connections of objects and so much more. True mathematical knowledge comes not only from knowing “how” to get the correct answer, but from knowing “why” it’s the correct answer. It comes from teaching our minds how to think mathematically and logically, how to organize our thoughts about data into patterns, sequences, and systems that work together. Multiplication is about more than just knowing the answer to “3x5” but how 3 groups of 5 (or 5 groups of 3 depending on how you look at it) work together and division is about knowing how to break numbers up into equal groups.
I read recently that Susan B. Anthony requested that her elementary teacher give her some multiplication and division problems so she could teach herself how to multiply and divide. He told her there was no reason a girl would need to know how to multiply or divide. I can think of so many, many ways that multiplication and division applies to everyone’s lives, but even “back in that day” so to speak a woman planning a meal for a large gathering would want to know that she had an equal number of biscuits or rolls or cookies for each person and would therefore have needed to know how to multiply. I’m so thankful that I was not raised in a world like that and that my teachers provided me with every opportunity I could hope for to learn math.
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