The Time for Accessible STEAM Education is Now

Shane Foster, President
The COVID-19 pandemic has created the largest disruption to schooling in recent times. Student learning losses and mental wellness issues threaten this generation and will greatly impact the educational and social maturation of millions of children. 

This unparalleled disruption to education is far from over. To prevent this learning crisis from becoming a generational catastrophe, we must act urgently.
IDEA Space KC will play a vital and unique part in the region’s educational recovery. It will be a place where children can regain lost learning and build new knowledge and skills through hands-on, experiential and collaborative learning that is essential for their success both now and in the future. We are making a crucial investment in Kansas City’s future workforce and tomorrow's leaders. Here is how thousands of diverse students from our region will benefit from IDEA Space experiences.

When students engage in STEAM activities, they experience guided inquiry in which they must ask thoughtful questions, discover answers, apply what they learn, and solve problems creatively. Students learning to program a robot have to ponder how they want it to function, test and iterate new ideas, apply the design thinking process and solve problems on the way to creating a successful and tangible product. These are authentic, lifelong learning experiences. 

Group projects and teamwork are fundamental to any STEAM experience. Working together exposes students to new ideas and prompts them to find successful ways to meet a common goal. STEAM activities involve an exchange of ideas, compromise, thoughtful listening and encouragement. They capitalize on the unique strengths and talents of each student in a working group.

STEAM projects give students a chance to overcome obstacles in unique ways because they must use a variety of methods to solve problems that arise during these types of activities. By experiencing trial and error and learning how to take intellectual risks, students find are encouraged to find solutions in creative, non-linear ways.

Not all students have access to the tools they need to learn how to build and fix things at home or at their home school. These are important learning opportunities because they give students a chance to engage in hands-on, experiential learning. Students need consistent exposure to the tools and materials that will lead to discoveries about how something works, how to build it or how to repair it and make it better. IDEA Space will be a center that provides consistent, ongoing STEAM experiences to thousands of students who might not otherwise have access to them.

Adding an "A" to the traditional STEM philosophy increases students' understanding of and appreciation for the arts. Game design, computer programming, technology disciplines and fabrication have elements of the arts embedded in them. Consider carpentry, metalworking and welding. In trained hands, these skills combine art and craft into marketable products. Arts are also integral also in engineering, technology, and the design thinking process because they make complicated processes and concepts more accessible to all kinds of students. 

Though STEAM projects often result in a physical product, one of the most valuable end results in the acquisition of soft skills that are less tangible — but just as important — to a student's education. Through STEAM learning, children learn to communicate their ideas, collaborate as part of a team, and use creativity to solve problems. These skills will serve students, and our future workforce, to shape a successful future. 

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