Recently I attended a conference in Philadelphia by the National Science Teachers Association that focused primarily on engineering. During my time at the conference I was quickly reminded that no one has “solved” STEAM, that its concept, in each individual academic community, is developed through the creativity of the teachers and designed for the needs of the student body. There is not, and there likely never will be, a national answer for STEAM that reaches the needs of all schools.

What the NSTA does is bring amazing educators together from around the country to discuss the ideas that has worked for them in their classroom and beyond. While attending these seminars, you sift through the ideas and pick out the ones that you know can be utilized at your institution. My experience was no different as I returned with some incredible ideas that I know can be positive additions at Rockhurst High School.

While there are several NSTA Conferences around the country, I wanted to attend this one specifically because of the emphasis on engineering. I am of the belief that there is no more effective pathway to a STEAM curriculum than through engineering. It requires math, science, strong communication skills, problem solving skills, collaborative work, creativity, technology as a tool…..and that’s just the start. It is the culmination of an education; when students years and years prior to high school ask “why do I have to know this???”, the answer can simply be, “Engineering, that’s why”. I am very excited for the future of our Engineering Club, for our Robotics Engineering Courses, and for our computer engineering developments, but I know that we can do so much more.

Allowing students to truly experience the material they are studying is a key component to STEAM. Its a paradigm shift, its completely different than sitting in a desk for 45 minutes accumulating notes. There is no more effective strategy to achieve this than through internships and research, which so many high schools coast to coast are turning to. Research and Internships are not just found at the college level anymore….high schools now offer students internships where they work outside the confines of the school building and they also offer authentic research experiences where students are experiencing science in its purest form. Together, we can bring this experience to our students. There are so many schools with entrenched, robust programs that are willing to share their process with us. It is up to us to positively collaborate to breathe life into this concept at Rockhurst, giving our students so much more during their academic formative years.

What this conference showed me is that education is not changing….its getting closer and closer to figuring out “what moves students today”. What was discussed was not lecturing, but rather “doing”. Physics and math wasn’t discussed, engineering was. Student behavior modification wasn’t discussed, instead how students can positively collaborate was. Individual disciplines were not discussed, inter-disciplinary concepts and how to mold multiple disciplines into one were talked about.

Education is not changing, its growing. As it grows, it figures out what excites students. There is data that demonstrates this and new methods that are allowing students to reach new heights. Our students are ready to experience academics in a new way….let’s meet them where they are at.