It is well recognized that the world needs to develop interdisciplinary problem solvers and creative thinkers to address the problems of the future. Training in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM) is essential for understanding the complexity of the world around us and for identifying and tackling critical technical and social issues. To that end, many programs have been launched all around the world to expose students to STEAM fields and to encourage them to pursue STEAM careers. Hands-on, project-based learning has been shown to get more students engaged with STEAM and help them learn key skills for the future. However, most STEAM education programs target students in upper-middle or high school. If students are nurtured at earlier ages to love thinking critically, solving problems, and building, they are more likely to pursue STEAM fields.
This paper describes the implementation of project-based STEAM curriculum with elementary school students from ages 6–13. It includes a detailed discussion of curriculum design, case studies of specific student work, subjective analysis of engagement level with various projects, and discussion of lessons learned. The paper also discusses how the makerspace environment where the students execute their projects has been set up to be accessible for students in this age range.
Additionally, the paper describes how a hands-on STEAM curriculum that traditionally relies on in-person feedback, materials, and access to peers as teammates can be maintained while having students learning remotely. Educational techniques for hands-on learning while physical distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic are discussed.