Fusing science and arts – A new approach to teaching STEAMs ahead


Established in 2016, the Intercultural STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) Project, led by Macquarie University’s School of Education, has trialled a new approach to classroom science in a bid to enhance interest and strengthen understanding of the subject.

A blended approach

The project, funded by the Australia-Korea Foundation and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, has worked with several schools in Australia and South Korea to design and implement contemporary science learning activities that integrate the arts and humanities.

Incorporating arts and humanities into science learning allows students to apply the subject matter to their own lives, creating a deeper understanding and interest. With this blended approach, students are less inclined to view science as siloed, or as a difficult subject.

Blending was done in several ways during the project, including the incorporation of socio-cultural examples into classroom projects. Students from both countries were required to design a zero-energy school building for each other, meeting frequently on Zoom to strengthen their cultural awareness and understanding to ensure their designed building would be appropriate to relevant socio-cultural and lifestyle practices. The Korean students considered whether a north-facing building would suit the Australian practice of maximising the amount of sunlight entering the building in winter. They were able to justify their decision by applying the science concepts of the sun’s altitude in relation to energy efficiency.

The project’s Primary Chief Investigator was Dr Hye-Eun Chu, Senior Lecturer in the School of Education. She says that integrating humanities and science results not only in more engaged students, but also in students that are better equipped to solve complex issues.

“We need to develop future citizens who can make decisions rationally, taking into account scientific facts but with consideration of the cultural practices and values of the people involved,” she says. “Students experiencing this integrated learning are better equipped to think creatively in decision making where science is involved.”

The challenge for teachers

Although the project team received overwhelmingly positive feedback from students and teachers, Chu has identified several issues that need to be addressed before the approach can be widely implemented in classrooms.

“A major challenge is the difficulty that teachers face in finding appropriate humanities topics or socio-cultural events to integrate into the science lesson,” she says. “The socio-cultural element and the method of integration should focus students’ attention on the science concept being taught – not merely serve as a ‘fun’ activity.”

A further challenge is the time required for students to fully engage with STEAM, with its need for research, group collaboration, artefact production and brainstorming to solve socially situated problems.

“Teachers who are focused on preparing students for school or national examinations generally feel they can’t afford the time to engage in activities aimed at science concept development in relation to socio-cultural contexts,” Chu adds.

Full STEAM ahead

Two symposiums held in Sydney and Seoul saw science teachers from Australia and Korea joining experts in the Department of Education to consider the outcomes of the project. As well as introducing the pedagogical principles and philosophy underlying STEAM to teachers, thereby supporting them to create their own STEAM learning activities, the symposiums also stimulated plans to implement STEAM in several new schools in both countries.

This year, four schools will be added to the growing list of schools benefiting from the STEAM program across Australia and Seoul. Easing of COVID restrictions will allow for more vigorous data collection by the project team to support the program’s continued expansion.

Chu says it has been rewarding to see teachers’ enthusiasm for the program.

“Once teachers realise the positive effects of STEAM on students’ learning and attitude to science, they are so enthusiastic. In the next 12 months we’re planning to support more teachers in developing a real understanding of the science-related pedagogical aim of integrating the arts into science teaching, so that they can design effective STEAM lessons.”





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  1. A fascinating and valuable program to ensure science students are receiving a meaningful learning experience! Interested to see how the program progresses!

  2. Wonderful programme. Real benefits to kids and a deep intercultural understanding. Well done Dr Chu! The team is making a difference!

  3. Making rational decisions based on scientific facts is definitly something urgently needed in society today and in the near future. Seeing the project receive overwhelmingly positive feedback from students and teachers is exciting.

    I would love to hear more about this project.

  4. A fantastic idea with ‘food for thought’ on how to overcome the challenges identified. Would love to find out more Chu.

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