Author: Jukka Miettunen, Principal, Yli-Ii comperehensive school (grades K–9), Oulu, Finland
I work as the Principal of the Yli-Ii Comprehensive School in the City of Oulu. Our school has put a lot of effort into STEAM. STEAM, which means Science Technology Engineering Arts and Mathematics, is a rising star amongst trends in education.
In Finland, we have a new curriculum promoting transversal competences and cross-curricular themes that enables co-operation between subjects. Co-operation is a skill that every Finnish teacher has to learn and start to utilize in their own work. It also requires innovative initiatives and strong leadership from the school leaders to guide the school into the right direction in the changing world. What a great opportunity to have STEAM as a framework to combine subjects and teachers!
We wanted to have a STEAM Learning environment serving all the students at the school, helping teachers co-operate between STEAM subjects and supporting professional development in the changing world. We built up a STEAM Learning Environment called STEAMario (Värkkäämö in Finnish). It means making something in a strong sense of “doer culture”. We also trained our teachers to use it and its technology easily. Today, STEAMario is a modern and stimulating STEAM Learning Environment with necessary technology like coding, robotics, electric work, laser cutting and carving, and vinyl printing. To support the development phase, we also established a STEAM team with teachers interested and willing to learn new skills.
Most of the projects and prototypes done in STEAMario rise from the real world problem-solving. For example, we had an Autumn holiday for a week. Students had just planted seeds to grow chili in biology class. They were worried that the plant will dry without watering during the week. With some planning together, they created an automatic watering system controlled by Arduino. Well-watered chilis were awaiting the students after the holiday week.
In another project, students were examining everyday automation and finding ideas to solve their own problems. They watched a video of a Finnish inventor who talked about how he views automation, how he ended up as an inventor and how he feels about the importance of creativity. The final projects represented problem-solving for things like cleaning your room – a cleaning robot; making your bed – a bed making tool and so on. What a joy of learning and doing things together!
Learning is the most import goal, and pedagogy plays a major role in the planning and executing STEAM-projects. With STEAM, the students have more opportunities to train their skills and find their strengths.
STEAM is a way to do and enable cross-curriculum work. It is not meant to replace teachers’ jobs or to function without human interaction. Neither is it meant to be implemented from one subject point of view only. We have to open the classroom doors and expand the concept of learning environment to let our students learn future skills together. I strongly recommend every school to try STEAM!