Sunday, 18 June 2017



Our job as educators is to enthuse and encourage the curiosity within children and in parallel, build the skills and dispositions of developing good questions for inquiry, seeking out answers, generating solutions, testing hypotheses, justifying conclusions and exploring other questions generated during the inquiry.  The skills of inquiry learning are the building blocks for all learning. This approach actively engages and empowers children allowing access to transformational learning experiences.

A key message we keep hearing is that for New Zealand to improve its competitiveness in the global marketplace, we must foster creativity, innovation and enterprise in all aspects of society and particularly in schools.

STEM subjects are seen as core to the future. (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths.)  

STEM aims to foster inquiring minds, logical reasoning and collaboration skills. But, as we know the arts are also so important and are a conduit to the academics bringing many creative and higher order thinking opportunities. Thus for us the acronym STEAM is more apt.   
For many the arts are just a frivolous add on to the more important STEM subjects! However the arts play a powerful part in a child’s education. Many of the world’s greatest innovators including Einstein have stressed this.  Richard Florida, the famous USA economist and author said, “Integrating the arts into school life expands possibilities for learning and provides opportunities for problem solving, perceptual development, lateral thinking and imaginative action.”  

In reality best practice suggests teachers need to take this inter-disciplinary approach or an integrated curriculum view where all these subjects are linked together in a meaningful way. Learning contexts which are really powerful will be solution orientated solving authentic problems.  ‘Place -based’ contexts will help the children’s connection and add real motivation. For example, our school has a local estuary and “estuaries are some of the most productive and diverse ecosystems on Earth. They hold great cultural and economic value as food baskets and for their ecosystem services.” (1)

Starting with this knowledge and immersing children via a well prepared field trip experience, a teacher would be able to facilitate a wonderfully exciting and creative study involving all the STEAM subjects. The power of combining and integrating subject matter was promoted by one of the world’s greatest thinkers, Albert Einstein.

He said,  “For as long as I can remember — and certainly long before I had the term for it — I’ve believed that creativity is combinatorial: Alive and awake to the world, we amass a collection of cross-disciplinary building blocks — knowledge, memories, bits of information, sparks of inspiration, and other existing ideas — that we then combine and recombine, mostly unconsciously, into something “new.” From this vast and cross-disciplinary mental pool of resources beckons the infrastructure of what we call our “own”“original” ideas. The notion, of course, is not new — some of history’s greatest minds across art, science, poetry, and cinema have articulated it, directly or indirectly, in one form or another.” (2)

Capturing the love and passion for STEAM needs to start with our new entrants at school. STEAM using the core dispositions described in paragraph one, traverses all that we are and do as humans. Children love getting their hands and minds into these fascinating subjects and they link so well with other curriculum areas as well. It is a way of thinking, a way of viewing the world and something that you do, not something that you learn from a textbook.

Warren Owen
  1. Science Learning Hub Newsletter – June 2017
  2. Brain Pickings by Maria Popova  June 18 2017.
Picture: Science Learning Hub Newsletter – June 2017