STEM or STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, & Math) are big buzz words in education, kid gear, and toys right now. But I find two schools of thought in homeschooling – it’s not really all that important until high school or it’s a extra that we get to when we get to it. I take a different view on this. STEAM education is just as important as the other subjects we teach our kids. I know it’s messy to do science experiments. I know art takes longer than it should. I know all those LEGO pieces drive you to thinking about (or actually) vacuuming them up.
Before we dismiss STEAM education in our homeschools – whether because of philosophy or the messiness and open-endedness, I’d like to introduce a concept that could change your view – STEAMSDAY.
Why we STEAMSDAY?
I introduced this day per week (or sometimes a little less often) to my kids because I have kids who need hands-on work to keep them engaged. My kiddos were already pulling this stuff out without much purpose (and that’s ok – free play is necessary), but I was frustrated that we weren’t really doing anything very memorable. That’s ok too. That’s what the early years are for – exploring and finding passions. However, I have three kiddos with some big needs – a big kid who struggles with writing and focus, a boy who needs lots of intellectual stimulation or destruction and clinging sink in, and a little artist who will color the walls\ and tear up the kitchen without an outlet.
I try to add something STEAM to our morning time as it relates (and nature study totally counts if you ask me), but we don’t always get to it. LEGO during read alouds is one way to add STEAM in, especially if you use it as a narration tool – “Build a model of what we read about in your history book today.”
A few notes on why we do a day per week of STEAMSDAY:
- I don’t have time to clean up all the “mess” that goes with pulling out every kit, experiment, or art supply.
- Some of this stuff takes planning – like an engineering feat (the Pringles challenge for instance – you need the Pringles!) and supplies we may not have.
- I like to combine literature with whatever we’re studying. That way I know my kids are getting exposure to the concepts we’re studying beyond an experiment. I like for them to make connections and to get a picture in their mind of the “why” and “how”.
- I get to be a fun mom and give my kids something to look forward to when they’ve worked hard on skill work.
- I can get a day off of the frustrating parts of teaching kids who have some challenges. I feel good knowing that we’re still narrating, asking big questions, and learning when I need a break.
What’s a STEAMDAY include?
We *TRY* to hit on a big question or two and one of each of the STEAM disciplines – science, technology, engineering, art and math. I sometimes throw in a themed idea instead of trying to apply everything to a big question. Sometimes a subject is more of a part of another subject. For instance, when we did a Pumpkin STEAMSDAY, math was incorporated into the science experiment (estimating, probability, measuring).
What supplies do you need?
My big thing about STEAMSDAY is to use resources we already have. I like to see what the kids are interested in and then build around that. Sometimes it’s a video I saw or a book we want to read. Sometimes, it’s just a science kit that I add things on to for the sake of taking a break.
How much planning does a STEAMSDAY take?
I do this two ways – once a month – for the month or 15-30 minutes on the fly. I don’t have a huge time budget for planning, so I don’t. I did do a big list of what we have on-hand when the idea came to me. I was sick of my kids saying, “I have nothing to do.” Oh yes, you do. Here’s a list. I use that list to curate our resources for STEAMSDAY. I review experiments for supplies we might need at the grocery store. I also go over my planning checklist to make sure we’re covering subjects I want to cover. My bookshelves are also organized by subject, so it’s pretty easy to find the books we need. When I’m on my game, I plan early so I can order real books from Thriftbooks. If I’m not on my game, I look at Kindle Unlimited, Epic, Scribd, for source material. (I’ve only just started a trial with Epic, but it has tons of Gail Gibbons books that read for you!)
What does a STEAMSDAY look like?
You can get an overview in this post I did for Raising Human Beans – How to STEAM School All Day.
Free Resources for STEAMSDAY
You can also watch my workshop on STEAMSDAY and get my free planning pack by subscribing to my newsletter.