When my master’s degree changed from STEM to STEAM, I was kind of upset. (Science, Technology, Engineering, [Arts], Mathematics) Personally, STEAM is just another way to say “Hey, let’s connect LITERALLY ALL OF THE DISCIPLINES TOGETHER” Well duh. The more connections our kids can make, the better. What I have learned from this is that the ‘A’ in STEAM represents both the fine arts and liberal arts. I was upset because we still can’t succeed at STEM (I mean hell, I still need to tell people I’m not interested in STEM CELLS…… -.-), and now we want to include everything under the sun. Maybe this way will work better…

Notice how I said “*was*” – meaning that I may be coming around. I still have my objections, but as I continue to learn more about this STEAM stuff, the more I realize that I’ve been doing this the entire time. I’ve always been an advocate for connecting all the disciplines because not every student sees their math or science potential, thinking they can’t do it because they prefer English. It helps to make learning fun, engaging, and relevant. If we can see it in the real world, we have a better chance of remembering it. I’ve got research to back that up, if you want it. 🙂 I’ve always been an advocate for students to perfect their writing in math and science classes. They need to know how to write a mathematical or scientific paper, as well as actually know how to write. So, I’ve been doing these things for a while. Though, through my program I’m now forced to create things and apply research. Which is good; saves me time in my busy life.

This brings me to my next point. Right now I am redesigning my Algebra 2 curriculum to have a STEAM focus. This week we needed to share resources we use, and then take one of those and find a learning activity to do with our kids. Well, I found one I really liked and truly needed to share it with more than just my classmates.

*Note: It’s written for an academic discussion, not a blog post. *

xo, LZE

**Investigating Epidemics**

NRICH. (n.d.) Investigating epidemics. University of Cambridge. Retrieved from http://nrich.maths.org/8336

Through exploring Youcubed.com, several of their lessons referenced a website named NRICH. NRICH offers a variety of lessons from the elementary level to the secondary level. While they are focused on “enriching mathematics,” NRICH also includes a variety of scientific concepts (NRICH, n.d.). With this, an Investigating Epidemics lesson was discovered, and can be used in a STEAM enhanced Algebra 2 curriculum. The purpose of this lesson is to educate students on how epidemics occur, which can be modeled by an exponential function. This lesson also offers three possible executions where it seems that each suggestion increases in difficulty, as well as the ability to make your own activity; thus, there is room to grow when using this in the classroom.

The Investigating Epidemics lesson begins with an activity called “Standing Disease.” This activity consists of all students sitting down except for the first person who claims to be infected with the disease. The infected person then chooses two people to infect, where they stand up, and then each infect another two people. This process continues until everyone is standing in the classroom. Through this activity, it provides an opportunity for students to get out of their seats, but it also provides a visual on how a disease – or exponential function – travels so quickly. This type of activity helps to connect mathematics and science, establish relevance as well as gives students an opportunity to be active in a “math” classroom – which are necessary when attempting to successfully practice a STEAM curriculum (Vasquez, Sneider, & Comer, 2013). Students will be able to connect a graphical representation of an exponential function or disease to how quickly their classmates stood up. To further this activity and represent different functions or diseases, the method in which people can be infected and their rates can be altered. Through these differences students can then work on achieving the Next Generation Science Standards – specifically, students will be refining their skills in “analyzing and interpreting data,” developing and using models,” “obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information,” as well as “engaging in argument from evidence” (Next Generation Science Standards, 2013).

Outside of the “Standing Disease” activity, NRICH also offers an activity called “Network Disease,” where students do a similar motion, but they write down two names on a piece of paper, and call those people out. This activity models the predictability and probability of being infected by the disease. Students can see their classmates’ participation in this activity as a visual representation, however, NRICH suggests to make a network diagram to help students develop a pattern. NRICH also offers questions to consider when engaging in this lesson; these questions challenge students to think of alternative patterns, and even bring in the possibility of vaccinations and how that would affect the situation. Just like the “Standing Disease” this activity connects math and science, as well as applies the concepts to the real world.

These two activities were chosen for their content and relevance to a STEAM enhanced Algebra 2 curriculum. However, they were also chosen for their growth potential in collaboration with other educators. Exponential growth, infectious diseases, and even medicine are all (at least) discussed in mathematics, history, English, and science at some point in the curriculum and to varying degrees. These two activities have the potential to help a high school apply any of the three approaches (multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary) to STEM/STEAM integration suggested by Vasquez et al to their current curricula. Not only will this promote and enhance the integration process, but by including other disciplines, these activities will continue to follow the best practices provided by Vasquez et al as well as the Next Generation Science Standards, and help the students continue to further their learning.

*Possible activities educators can do to integrate STEAM:*

__Math:__ Exponential functions; use “Standing Disease” and “Network Disease;” model infamous epidemics (learned in history) mathematically.

__Science:__ Discuss infectious diseases, their effects, possible medications and the pros/cons of vaccinations.

__History:__ Discuss/research infectious diseases and the human impact in the past; perhaps discuss the implications of medicine back then, and the differences in technologies between then and now.

__English:__ Research and write an essay about differences; Locate texts discussing epidemics (e.g. Fever 1793) and relate it to content discussed in Science and History.

__Art:__ Perhaps observe art created in times during infamous epidemics, or art pertaining to diseases; discuss human impact and attempt to piece together a story based on the information learned in other classes.

__Technology:__ Students can play the game “Plague” (app on phone) and model different situations by starting with different materials, and beginning in different countries based on criteria they have learning in other classes as well as personal curiosity.

References

Next Generation Science Standards. (2013). Appendix F – Science and engineering practices in NGSS. Retrieved from http://www.nextgenscience.org/sites/default/files/Appendix%20F%20%20Science%20and%20Engineering%20Practices%20in%20the%20NGSS%20-%20FINAL%20060513.pdf

NRICH. (n.d.) Investigating epidemics. University of Cambridge. Retrieved from http://nrich.maths.org/8336

Vasquez, J. A., Sneider, C., & Comer, M. (2013). *STEM lesson essentials, grades 3-8: Integrating science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. *Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann