Low-Tech, No-Tech STEAM……Isn’t that an oxymoron? Actually, no, it’s not! STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) education combines Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math to guide inquiry, discussion, collaboration, and critical thinking. It is still STEAM teaching, even if it is low or no tech.
Technology is a broad topic; it does not have to mean using a computer. Low-tech, no-tech STEAM usually involves a hands-on activity which is an engaging and fun way to teach a variety of concepts. The benefits of STEAM learning include problem-solving and critical thinking skills, collaboration, real-world connections, resilience, and creativity. Collaboration is important. Students need to learn to work together to accomplish projects. Mistakes are learning opportunities. Students build resilience when they try and try again before they succeed. Each student’s skill set will contribute to the final product. You (or even they) may not even know a student has a skill until it is demonstrated during a STEAM project!
How do you structure low-tech, no-tech STEM in the classroom? Break projects into steps or smaller pieces using an engineering or design process. There are many options from elementary to middle to high school. Then start off with less intensive projects and build to major projects. For example, start with small projects like catapults and Lego mazes before moving on to Rube Goldberg Machines. You could also begin with elastic-powered rovers and solar ovens before moving on to Living on Mars projects. Organization is key! Find a material organization system that works for your projects—plan for storing projects that take more than one class to complete and for material storage for future projects. Make sure you have materials and supplies ready before starting a project. Recycle materials from home and the classroom. Ask students and other teachers to bring in recyclable materials for projects. The dollar store is also a great place to get budget-friendly materials! Time is another key. Students will take longer with projects when starting out; you may need to give a time limit for each part of the process. Expect some mess! Plan time for clean up!
Low-tech and no-tech STEAM activities can take many forms. Some great fun stand-alone projects are bristlebots, robot hands, “What the Heck is that?”, unplugged coding, and Oobleck. Instructables and PBS’ Design Squad Global are bountiful project resources. There is even a Design Squad Latinx and resources in Arabic! Once your students are comfortable, you can begin scaffolding smaller projects into longer projects like building a sustainable city, trash to treasure, toy take apart and repurposing, and Global Goals STEM challenges.
Low-tech, no-tech STEAM is a fun and engaging option for any classroom! TeachersFirst has great STEAM classroom resources and blog posts; check them out. Implement low-tech, no-tech STEAM for a lively school year! Are you using low-tech and no-tech STEAM activities in your classroom? Share your favorites in the comments below!