On February 1st, fifteen teachers from Beijing #80, a top-ranked high school situated in the heart of China’s capital city, arrived in the New England area to learn more about how STEAM ( Science Technology Engineering Art and Math) teaching methodology has been pioneered and practiced in the United States. This group of teachers will be participating in a model STEAM ninth grade class next September overseen by the Beijing Education Bureau.
The teachers began their tour at Harvard University where they attended workshops designed to help them integrate STEAM themes into their classroom routines back in Beijing. Searching for successful implementation of these techniques, the group opted to tour several schools in the Boston area including the Nu Vu School in Cambridge and Minuteman High School in Lexington.
Both high schools are widely known to practice Project Based Learning and to incorporate STEAM elements into every aspect of instruction. The delegation also visited with MIT Beaver Works to learn more about its tradition of STEAM summer camps before decamping back to Harvard's Project Zero to question faculty about the projects’ signature “Maker's Spaces.”
Yet when asked to name their favorite part of the tour, the globetrotting science teachers tended to talk about the time spent in Providence, the birthplace of the STEAM movement. The Head of School at the Jewish Community Day School demonstrated[CR1] how its teachers have embraced STEAM methodology with a student centered philosophy. The visitors regularly expressed surprise at just how engaged the first and second grades were with their projects.
The last leg of the tour took the Beijing-based educators to the Rhode Island School of Design, where RISD personnel presented evidence that the high levels of student engagement produced by STEAM curriculum is eventually reflected in higher test scores. Assured that adopting these new techniques would not negatively impact students’ outcomes, the visitors rounded off their day in Providence with a presentation by the STEAM team at Brown University. The delegation will be in the US for fourteen days.
The Beijing group was hosted by the STEAN International Research Institute (SIRI). SIRI works closely with the Beijing Education Bureau and the Beijing Teacher's Training Institute on education reform initiatives throughout China. Together, the organizations aim to bring the transformative benefits of a STEAM education to the largest school system in the world.