Dundalk Institute of Technology (DkIT) are proud supporters of education innovation and recently held support training for primary and secondary school teachers on utilising a STEAM approach to learning through the NEXT STEP project.
You may have heard of STEM which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, which are subjects much in demand as the STEM industry is the fastest growing sector both nationally and internationally. STEAM is STEM but with Arts included and research has shown that utilising the arts to introduce students to STEM subjects has been extremely effective in supporting children’s understanding and learning. Teaching science in the context of the arts, humanities and social sciences is now recognised as an important learning aid. Similarly, the infusion of science and maths into the learning of non-STEM disciplines could strengthen key-competence development in those disciplines. Collaboration amongst teachers is one of the key features of the NEXT STEP project which employs the whole school approach and aims at creating inclusive learning environments that foster competence development for all learners.
DkIT have been involved with the Erasmus+ funded NEXT STEP project which is a Europe-wide collaboration of educators utilising STEAM to support new ways of learning.
Dr Bridget Kelly from the Department of Life Sciences and one of the key drivers of the NEXT STEP Project which is a Europe-wide collaboration, Said “Teachers from St Louis Secondary School, Dundalk and St Joseph’s National School, Kingscourt presented on their experiences developing projects with their classes as part of this project. In Dundalk, the Art teacher collaborated with the Science teacher to explore saltwater etchings and printing, developing an understanding of circuits and conductivity. In Kingscourt, students developed creative projects on pollinators with a focus on bees. In both instances, the schools completed a self-evaluation for the NEXT STEP project that highlighted how many teachers are already engaged in creative teaching that demonstrates STEAM relationships”.
During these educational sessions Paula Walsh, a PhD student and TUTF scholar at DkIT under the supervision of Dr Bridget Kelly, Dr Catherine O’Connor and Dr Adèle Commins, explored approaches to learning and curiosity with a focus on early years, demonstrating how some of the ideas could be adapted and developed across the education sector to engage learners at all stages. Participants then explored simple circuits, learning how approaches developed to assist people with particular disabilities can also be integrated into mainstream teaching activities to make learning more engaging. Tasks become games and children’s own curiosity and explorations can find ways of developing ideas in a way teachers may not have imagined.
The events also allowed time for discussion between participants, who reflected on the benefits of working with other teachers and educators and sharing skills. Tom O’Connor, Principal of Scoil Phádraig in Kilcurry, commented on the usefulness of the workshops for considering whole school planning and a desire to implement an ethos of STEAM in the school.
Researchers from DkIT will travel to the University of Western Norway later this month to participate in a final series of meetings, workshops and school visits for the NEXT STEP project. They are already collaborating with partners in Greece on another project which will seek to expand on the NEXT STEP project and involve more local schools in an ever-expanding network.