It is well recognized that the world needs 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 crucial for understanding the complexity of the world around us and for identifying and tackling critical issues ranging from climate change to gender inequities. 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. One particularly effective approach is through hands-on learning and “making,” since children often have a natural affinity for tinkering and learn well through active involvement in meaningful activities . 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 . Bustamante et. al write, “Since engineering education has traditionally not been part of the general K–12 education experience (i.e., the beginning of primary school (age 5) through the end of secondary school (age 18)), early childhood educators have minimal background in engineering pedagogy, and engineering education has been largely absent from purposeful coverage in early childhood” . If students are nurtured at earlier ages to love thinking critically, solving problems, and building, they may be more inclined to continue their education in STEAM fields. Exposing elementary school children to STEAM curriculum is key in instilling in them an early love of learning and problem-solving. This is often overlooked in our current educational system and should be addressed to help develop excellent future STEAM professionals.
This paper explores the idea of introducing hands-on learning to younger kids and discusses field experience of implementing project-based STEAM curriculum with elementary school students from age 6-12. It includes examples of curriculum, discusses case studies of specific student work, and analyzes engagement level with various projects with attention to the value of problem solving and real-world applications to classwork. This paper also includes observations on student skill-building, both in terms of technical skills and students’ communication, and data on student self-assessment of skills. The paper makes recommendations for future research and investigation and proposes methods for implementing similar coursework at other elementary schools.
Are you a researcher? Would you like to cite this paper?
Visit the ASEE document repository at
for more tools and easy citations.