STEAM education brings the world into the classroom

Providing students with iPads is about more than a fun perk. It’s a way to expose today’s students to global learning, foster conversation and encourage new ways of thinking.

Incorporating key STEAM subjects – science, technology, engineering, art and math – into all areas of education not only provides students with a solid base of learning today but also prepares them for future careers.

“STEAM education is really about expanding the students’ base of learning and developing their thinking skills so they are mature enough to really look at the big picture and see things more than one way,” said Abby Levine, principal at Addlestone Hebrew Academy. “It’s important to be flexible about how you’re thinking and learning because we’re preparing kids for jobs that don’t exist now.”

Addlestone Hebrew Academy, the only Jewish day school in the state, uses project-based learning to blend subjects. For example, second-graders are learning about how plants grow in a science experiment and, at the same time, creating a piece of artwork from different colored seeds as a way to merge science and art.

Founded in 1956, Addlestone previously was on a joint campus with the Jewish Community Center, but in 2015 moved to its own state-of-the-art facility. The school of 135 students includes families of all Jewish denominations as well as some non-Jewish students.

Even though Addlestone had long incorporated the concept of STEAM learning into its faith-based curriculum, it’s become more official, said Ariela Davis, Judaic studies director. Students have iPads and each classroom has an Apple TV, which has opened the classrooms up to the world, allowing students to connect with other learners, she added.

By focusing on STEAM concepts and project-based education, students have the opportunity to learn in a way that targets their individualized learning styles.

“Our goal is to make sure kids can learn in a way that speaks to them,” Davis said. “Technology is the language kids are speaking in so we want to speak to kids in the way they are used to learning.”

Levine offers an example of how the focus on technology gives students access to the outside world while also fostering conversation within the four walls of the school. One classroom started watching the live feed of two baby bald eagles about to hatch at the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C. Word spread around the school and more students started watching the live feed of the eagle’s nest.

“The conversation was infectious,” Levine said. “It was happening outside this building, but it was very real and we could all talk about it. It was an example of “wow, this is what technology can really do.” We had eighth graders talking to kindergarteners about it. Technology has opened up a whole new way of teaching.”