Image courtesy of GEM – the voice for heritage learning.
Blog post written by: Alex Moxon, Founder of Outdoortopia.org – an outdoor education blog and community for teachers, youth leaders and parents interested in creating the next generation of changemakers for a more sustainable future.
STEAM education is growing in popularity worldwide. It stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics, and is designed to equip children with 21st Century knowledge and skills for the 4th Industrial Revolution. Some educationalists also add Electronics and Robotics to extend the acronym to ‘STEAMER.’ When combined with outdoor and experiential education, this type of learning can be extremely powerful.
By getting children to work together in teams, and undertake project-based learning outside the classroom, it replicates real-world settings and makes learning authentic and meaningful. Experiential learning or learning-by-doing, doesn’t just build subject knowledge, but it also encourages the development of dynamic ‘transferable skills’ (or so-called ‘soft skills’) that are becoming more and more vital.
Contrast this to teaching through traditional ‘chalk and talk’ learning, de-constructed into various narrow subjects, and hopefully you can instantly see the immense value of connecting and applying wide-ranging knowledge and skills from various disciplines, while leaving behind the confines of the classroom.
A Revolutionary Approach
This may seem revolutionary to some, but that’s because it’s a radically different approach to the education that most of us experienced in our own schools days. Critics might say that we must follow a step-by-step curriculum that covers all of the essential subject knowledge for preparing young people for the workplace. Others point to the challenges we would face in re-training current school teachers to teach in this way.
While it’s true that there are challenges to reforming education using this approach, I would argue the benefits of better preparing children for the challenges of the 21st Century, outweigh any difficulties in the implementation phase. This is the sort of cutting-edge experiential education that pushes the boundaries of schooling and better prepares children for the challenges they will face this century.
How Can We Instill a Love of Learning?
Just think, should we really be teaching children to calculate the circumference of a circle or to memorize the periodic table, without teaching to apply this curriculum knowledge to real-world settings? If children don’t see why they’re learning the content we teach, and how they can meaningfully use it in their own lives, how can we really inspire, engage and challenge them? How can we possibly instill a love of learning?
And thus, hands-on STEAM learning in out-of-classroom settings can help to make up for some of the short-falls of our current education system. Cross-curricular learning in real-world settings in perfectly possible and has the potential to be truly transformational for children and young people. They learn how to problem solve, communicate, persuade, resolve conflict, work in groups and apply subject knowledge learned in the classroom and much more. What a way to create a dynamic and resilient generation of young people, able to cope with whatever the 21st Century throws at them!
About the Author
Alex Moxon is Head of Outdoor Education at a leading international school and the founder of Outdoortopia.org. He links what students are learning in the classroom, to the real-world and provides opportunities for growth, challenge and leadership development. He also strives to link outdoor and experiential education to a wide range of global sustainability issues, to encourage young people to experience the world with their own senses, and gain a deeper love and appreciation of nature.
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