STEAMing our way through history

According to OECD´s PISA study, Belgian students are in the upper echelon of the EU average. However their performance in comprehensive reading (21,3%), mathematics (19,7%) and science (20,0%) does not reach the 15 % benchmark and the goal of the EU member states[1]. There has been a decline of students´ interest in STEM subjects which is particularly noticeable at secondary schools. Current analysis shows that demand for STEM professionals by 2025 is supposed to grow by 8% whereas the growth of non-STEM occupations would only be 3% ! Unemployment in STEM fields is one of the lowest in the European Union and remains very low despite economical crisis (e.g. crisis in Greece, Portugal or Spain). This points out the high demand for these occupations. The EU acted on this trend and since mid-2000 the number of higher education facilities focusing on STEM-related occupations has grown. Unfortunately, the number of STEM VET graduates has been dropping ever since. Justifiably, there is a significant concern. The number of students aiming for STEM studies is not rising in the EU. It might cover the newly opened positions but not the retiring workers. Among persisting trends are also under-representation of woman and national minorities in STEM occupations[2][3][4].


The Erasmus+ STEAMbuilders project aims to link Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) with history and European heritage. It does this by contextualizing STEAM in its historical development and historical applications. One of the main focuses is to support and encourage young girls, pupils with learning disorders, pupils from a disadvantaged socio-economic background or a migrant background to pursue a career in a STEM field. This project´s inspiration partially comes from experimental archeology. It is a field that connects researchers, educators and specialists from universities, museums and societies. Their mission is not only to discover new facts but mainly to explain and interpret. Through replicating tools and technologies of the past we can understand how things used to work, how they have evolved or changed. We could say experimental archeology reveals some of the secrets and mysteries of archeology to the public [5]. Here we will explore fascinating sites that uncover this veil to explain their fascinating background and educate society.

3 examples of innovative educative approaches archeology, STEAM and History

The first site is an open-air laboratory of the Butser Ancient Farm in South Downs National Park near Chalton, Hampshire (England). The farm has been revealing the mysteries of history, wildlife, archaeology, animals, architecture and rural life for over 50 years! The farm consists of different ancient buildings rangin from the times of the Stone Age, Iron Age, Roman Britain age to the Anglo-Saxon period. They also keep rare breeds of animals and grow ancient crops. Here, researchers test their theories about technologies, building techniques and the way of life in those times.[6]

Pictures retrived from: Butser Ancient Farm. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.butserancientfarm.co.uk/

The second one is The Middelaldercentert (“Medieval Center”) in Nykøbing Falster, Denmark, where you emerge in the year 1409. As the first ones, they reconstructed a trebuchet, a type of catapult, in modern times! They also tried to construct other inventions of the medieval period e.g. cars, a lift, aircrafts, defense bubbles or perpetual motion machines. Some were not constructed when they were imagined rather centuries ago and what was left of the others were only centuries-old instructions! The Middelaldercentert use their discoveries and transform them in magical evening tours and Escape rooms for their visitors[7][8]

Pictures retrieved from: Middelaldercentret. (n.d.) Retrieved from https://middelaldercentret.dk/?lang=en

For the last one, you will have to visit the heart of France, northern Burgundy, and find Guédelon. Guédelon is not just any fortified castle of the 13th century. Its construction started in 1997 and has been ongoing ever since. It is not a replica of any other castle, it is a completely new built structure. It is being built using only the techniques and materials of that time. Visitors immediately immerse into a 13th century building site where there is always something new to see. In their own words: „Guédelon is of scientific, historic and educational interest; it is a tourist destination and, above all, it is a collective venture.“ [9] Visitors can watch and talk with the craftsmen and women (woodsmen, mortar makers, fixer masons, banker masons, quarrymen and others) to better understand their work. Workshops explaining ancient techniques, methods or tools are organized for visitors. Did you know about the arithmetic rope with 13 knots? It is used as a measuring and draughting tool to take, transfer and check measurements on the site but also to demonstrate Pythagoras’ theorem! [10] Estimates are that Guédelon will be finished by 2030[11].

Pictures retrieved from: Guedelon (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.guedelon.fr/

In this article, we presented you those 3 examples of innovative approaches of education and STEAM. Our belief is that cross-cultural teaching and learning approach can increase pupils´ interest and achievements in STEM education. The project aims to be inclusive for all, such as for young girls pupils from a disadvantaged background or pupils with specific learning disorders. If you want to find out more about on how to use our historical heritage to explain and contextualize mathematical and scientific concepts you should definitely check out the Pedagogical guide of STEAMbuilders, the first output of this project. We will definitely let you know when it is available on the STEAMBUILDERs website!

Project website : Soon
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Related projects:

Allows learners to be the creators of their own exhibition using digital tools

Methods, tools and practical examples of Escape Rooms adapted to the teaching of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics).

Common borders of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) and entrepreneurship, within the framework of improving agriculture and environmental engineering.

Tools for math teachers to add art works and hands-on exercises in their lessons.

Accessibility tools for images, text and presentation offering a narrative and visual experience of works of art for low or unskilled learners and those with specific needs

Sources:

[1] European Commission. (2019). PISA 2018 and the EU – Education and Training – European Commission. Retrieved from https://ec.europa.eu/education/news/pisa-2018_en
[2] European Parliament – Directorate General For Internal Policies. (2015). Encouraging STEM studies for the Labour Market. Retrieved from https://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/STUD/2015/542199/IPOL_STU(2015)542199_EN.pdf
[3] Paardekooper, R. (2019). Experimental Archaeology: Who Does It, What Is the Use? | EXARC. Retrieved from https://exarc.net/ark:/88735/10402
[4] Johnston, D. E. (1997). Experimental archaeology in education: past, present, future. In: Education-line database. (published 02 June 2003). Retrieved from http://www.leeds.ac.uk/educol/documents/00003003.htm
[5] Learning Archaeology: Experimental Archaeology. (n.d) Retrieved 29 January 2021, from http://www.pastperfect.org.uk/archaeology/experimental.html#:~:text=Experimental%20archaeology%20is%20often%20one%20of%20the%20most,boat%20can%20all%20be%20described%20as%20experimental%20archaeology.
[6] Butser Ancient Farm. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.butserancientfarm.co.uk/
[7] Gazur, B. (2016). 10 Experiments That Solved Archaeological Mysteries – Listverse. Retrieved from https://listverse.com/2016/07/29/10-experiments-that-solved-archaeological-mysteries/
[8] More information about this project is available here: https://middelaldercentret.dk/?lang=en
[9] Guedelon (n.d.). Introduction. Retrieved from https://www.guedelon.fr/en/introduction_75.html
[10] Boutique Guedelon. (n.d.) 13-knot rope – Boutique Guédelon. Retrieved from https://www.boutique-guedelon.fr/en/les-cordes/34-corde-a-13-noeuds.html
[11] Guedelon (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.guedelon.fr/