STEAM and Education for Social Responsibility in the Early Years
The teaching of STEAM and Education for Social Responsibility (ESR) are fundamental to a child’s early education and a key part of the Early Years curriculum at RSM. Before I begin to discuss the benefits of both, it is important that we understand what they mean.
What Are STEAM and ESR – Two Important Definitions
STEAM Education is an approach to learning that integrates Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics in a hands-on and collaborative way to help children solve real world problems. It teaches them to be innovative, creative, and to think critically. The acronym STEM was first coined in relation to education at the beginning of this century out of concern that future generations were lacking the critical skills needed to succeed in the current and future economy. Since then, the Arts have become an important part of this approach, and we focus on STEAM at RSM.
Education for Social Responsibility (ESR) is an RSM designed curriculum that helps children to think about the core values they will need to be able to lead happy and fulfilled lives, within stable and caring communities, whilst protecting the planet for the future.
Why Teach STEAM and ESR Together?
In an increasingly complex and interconnected world, the importance of STEAM education cannot be overstated and the skills it fosters are essential for success in the 21st century. At RSM we go further by integrating ESR into STEAM learning as this is a powerful way to raise environmentally conscious young people who are prepared to tackle the increasing challenges of our planet as they enter adult life.
Why Teach STEAM and ESR at the Early Years Stage?
While STEAM education has traditionally been associated with older children, there is growing recognition of the significance of introducing STEAM concepts in the early years.
Children are born inquisitive; from an early age they love to ask questions, solve problems and be creative. Our goal at RSM is to nurture and preserve this innate curiosity. From birth to 5 years old, the brain advances more than at any other stage in a person’s lifetime, so it is the ideal time to harness an understanding of the key components of STEAM and ESR. By exposing children to real life challenges and experiences at an early age, we can facilitate their growing curiosity, critical thinking and problem-solving skills, giving them the confidence to ask questions and seek out answers by working collaboratively. This provides a solid foundation for the future.
How are ESR and STEAM Taught in the Early Year at RSM?
We have a series of themes that are based on the ESR curriculum and taught using STEAM methods:
- Thanks for Everything (Ethical Trading): We talk to the children about valuing everything they have. We raise their awareness of the process of clothes production and they learn how to weave and use recycled materials to make a puppet.
- Being Kind to You and Me (Fulfilled Lives): This a wonderful way of fostering good relationships amongst the children. They make cards or books with moving parts for their friends.
- Why is Nature Special? (Ecosystems): One of the most effective ways to introduce sustainability is by connecting children with nature. Activities such as nature walks or gardening, making a compost bin, and observing wildlife are a good place to start.
- Our Changing World (Climate Change): We explore the idea that changes in the climate result in changes to how each of us experience life. We explore solar energy (using mini solar panels on the top of a constructed fire engine to make the lights work) and wind power.
- Where is Water? (Water Scarcity): We introduce the fact that water does not come from taps and involve the children in activities such as measuring the amount of water they use.
- Linking Local Wildlife (Biodiversity): Through our Forest School sessions we look at the different plants and animals in the local area. We create bug hotels and over time, the children can observe and discuss the different insects that might have made a home there.
- Where Does This Come From? (Finite Planet): We introduce the concept of recycling and reusing by making smoothies from bruised fruit or paper from discarded materials. Simple activities like sorting recyclables, composting snack waste, making a mini recycling centre, conserving water, and turning off lights help the children to experience this for themselves.
How Do the Children Benefit from Our Integrated Approach?
The children benefit enormously from learning STEAM and ESR together. Early exposure to sustainability concepts within ESR empowers them to become responsible environmental agents who know that their actions can make a positive difference in the world. Integrating ESR into STEAM provides a holistic understanding of how science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics intersect with real-world issues. This interdisciplinary approach fosters a deeper appreciation of the complexity of global challenges.
STEAM and ESR cultivate important values such as empathy, responsibility, and a sense of interconnectedness which are vital for creating a fairer and more sustainable society in the future. As the world grapples with environmental issues, the next generation needs to be equipped with the knowledge and skills to address these challenges. Early STEAM education with a sustainability focus prepares children for future careers in green industries and for environmental advocacy.
There is no doubt that early childhood is a critical period for the growth of STEAM skills and the development of ESR values. By introducing children to these in their formative years, we not only prepare them for future academic success but also empower them to be responsible global citizens. Through exploring nature, recycling activities and community engagement, we can ensure that the next generation is equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to address the environmental challenges of our time. Early STEAM education with ESR at its core is not just an investment in our children’s future; it is an investment in the future of our planet.
Head of Lower School