Blending STEAM and SEL for Holistic Development: EDMO’s Innovative Approach

In a rapidly evolving world, the approach to education is undergoing a transformative change. EDMO is at the forefront of this revolution, blending the magic of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) with the innovative world of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) to offer a curriculum that is not only comprehensive but also deeply enriching. Our unique methodology emphasizes learning through play and exploration, catering to the holistic development of kids.

EDMO’s Curriculum Director, Brittny Nation, explains that traditional education often focuses on logical, left-brain thinking, where there is a clear right or wrong answer. However, at EDMO, we strive to activate the creative potential of the right brain, along with left-brain thinking to encourage students to embrace their creativity while learning essential STEAM concepts. 

In this journey, EDMO is not just shaping minds; we're nurturing hearts and igniting a lifelong passion for learning and growth, preparing our young learners to thrive in a world where creativity, critical thinking, and character go hand in hand.

Integrating SEL in STEAM Education

The integration of Social Emotional Learning in STEAM education is an essential aspect of EDMO’s curriculum. SEL focuses on developing self-awareness, problem-solving, advocacy, collaboration, and empathy, which is vital for personal and professional success. "All aspects of STEAM require some form of collaboration with others," said Brittny, underscoring the importance of these skills.

While Brittny highlighted the collaborative aspect of STEAM education, Kendra Watkins, EDMO’s Director of Partnerships, shared tangible outcomes of this synergy, reflecting on the positive feedback from partner schools and the impact of SEL and STEAM integration. "We have received very positive feedback from our partner schools,” said Kendra, sharing that EDMO’s partners have reported seeing an improvement in school participation from kids in the EDMO programs, including attendance and classroom behaviors. “Partners have reported noticing an increase in kids’ confidence in problem-solving and collaboration,” Kendra added. 

Feedback from our partner schools isn't just about numbers; it illustrates a shift in student engagement and a positive change in their approach to learning. These improvements are essential indicators of the effectiveness of integrating SEL with STEAM, as they reflect not only academic engagement but also the development of key life skills.

The combination of SEL and STEAM in EDMO’s curriculum prepares students for a wide range of future challenges. Kendra explained, "The combination of SEL and STEAM helps to prepare students for future academic challenges by helping them practice and develop skills in a space where failure is celebrated and used as an opportunity to try again and grow." This approach is essential for fostering resilience and a growth mindset in students, key factors in both academic and personal success.

Empowering Resilience 

Every student’s success story at EDMO is a testament to the incredible power of combining SEL with STEAM education, as vividly demonstrated in a heartwarming example shared by Kendra. "A Site Director and Instructors noticed that a lot of kids in the program were having issues tying their own shoes," Kendra recounted. "For Community Week, they decided to have the kids create a shoe out of cardboard and yarn and practice throughout the week with a lot of encouragement and collaboration from staff and kids to help motivate everyone." This exercise, filled with encouragement and peer support, led to a breakthrough for a student who had been told they might never tie their shoes due to physical challenges. 

“The mom let our Site Director know that her kid had been in therapy for physical issues and the therapy team had decided that learning to tie their shoes was considered a lower priority skill and they would not be able to focus on that skill,” Kendra shared. “The mom was so grateful that our team… continued to encourage the kid to problem solve and continue to try. The motivation and support from the other kids also really help them to remain positive and keep trying. By doing this one activity, EDMO was able to create a deeper system of support for this student in collaboration with doctors, school personnel, and the community at large.” The joy and gratitude of the student’s mother, as she saw her child overcome this hurdle, highlights the profound impact of EDMO’s approach. 

This heartwarming story is a perfect illustration of how EDMO’s integrated SEL and STEAM curriculum doesn't just impart academic knowledge; it also plays a crucial role in developing the whole child, equipping them with the resilience, empathy, and problem-solving skills they need to face life's challenges with confidence and creativity.

Self-Discovery in Learning 

At EDMO, we believe that learning is more than just acquiring knowledge; it’s a journey of self-discovery. Brittny captured this ethos beautifully; "[We] think of education as whole-child development, not just traditional academic rigor,” she shared, adding that this philosophy “influences how we develop curriculum without having to operate in as many confines as you inevitably face in a traditional classroom setting.” This approach is pivotal as it allows EDMO’s curriculum team to tailor our teaching methods to foster not only intellectual growth but also personal development.

Diving into the heart of self-discovery in learning, especially in the context of SEL and STEAM, involves guiding students to understand their own strengths, weaknesses, and passions. Brittny reflected on this journey, staying, “When considering the development of young [students] that will soon lead our societies, it's important that the focus be less about what you can produce and more about the character you choose to build for yourself as you contribute to the world.”

EDMO’s approach is designed to encourage students to explore and express their feelings, which is crucial in understanding themselves and their place in the world. Brittny shared insights into how this approach plays out in a common scenario, “We've seen students not want to try something at the start of the year and totally shut down,” she said, noting that this resistance is a natural part of the learning process, where students grapple with unfamiliar or challenging tasks.

However, as students progress through EDMO’s curriculum, a beautiful transformation occurs. “As the year progresses we see them start to explain why they don't want to do something and what they're feeling,” Brittny observed. This articulation of thoughts and emotions is a significant step in self-awareness, a core component of SEL. EDMO instructors use this insight to guide students more effectively, fostering a learning environment where students feel heard and understood. Brittny noted the resulting change in engagement: "That added layer helps our instructors better navigate how to engage our kids and soon we see them jumping in to participate more frequently across all themes. It is a space for them to learn about the world and themselves." 

In this journey, the engagement goes beyond academics; it's about students discovering their unique interests and passions, learning to face challenges, and understanding their emotional responses to the world - all vital in building character, empathy and resilience. Through EDMO’s integration of SEL with STEAM, we're not just teaching subjects; we're guiding young minds on a path of self-discovery, helping them to become thoughtful, well-rounded individuals ready to make their mark on the world.

Curriculum of Exploration

EDMO’s curriculum emphasizes an exploratory and open-ended approach, Brittny explained. "Our curriculum is built on exploration, where there is rarely a right or wrong answer,” said Brittny, sharing that this approach fosters creative problem-solving and effectively balances left and right brain stimulation, encouraging students to engage in creative and holistic thinking. 

By not confining them to strict right or wrong answers, we nurture their innovative capacities. Brittny shared, “Creative play is something we remember as adults to intentionally incorporate in our lives as a form of mental health, [the same] is just as true for kids.” This method not only stimulates comprehensive brain functions but also aligns seamlessly with the evolving needs of modern education, enhancing our partnerships with schools and the balance of exploration and structured learning is central to our educational philosophy, ensuring that students develop both creative and analytical skills.

Scientific Support for STEAM and SEL

The fusion of STEAM and SEL in education is not just innovative but also scientifically substantiated. A comprehensive bibliometric study detailed in Frontiers explores the significant impact of SEL on students' academic engagement and success. It underscores the crucial role of SEL in fostering emotional and social competencies, crucial for overall school achievement. This research echoes the broader academic consensus on the benefits of integrating SEL into education, highlighting its positive effects on academic performance, social skills, and emotional well-being of students​. 

Diving even deeper, a study from Frontiers in Psychology throws the spotlight on the enactive and ecological methods in STEAM education, bringing a new dimension to learning. This innovative approach really emphasizes the cool factor of sensorimotor activities. It's not just about learning; it's about experiencing and connecting. By weaving together different areas of knowledge through our dynamic STEAM pedagogy, we're opening doors to a world of interconnected learning and supercharging our problem-solving skills. It's all about making learning an adventure and discovering how everything is wonderfully linked!

Together, these studies affirm the significant benefits of integrating SEL and STEAM, showcasing their potential to transform educational practices and outcomes, leading to more well-rounded, adaptable, and competent learners.

STEAM + SEL = Curiosity, Courage and Kindness 

At EDMO, we believe education extends far beyond academic achievements. Our focus is on cultivating individuals who are not only knowledgeable but also courageous, curious, and kind. By intertwining these core values into our curriculum, we're nurturing a generation that's not only creatively and empathetically adept but also equipped to approach the world with inquisitive minds, brave hearts, and a collaborative spirit. 

Aptly capturing the essence of combining STEAM and SEL, Kendra said, “These same skills come into play in future life challenges, approaching issues with critical thinking and being able to approach from a variety of perspectives." This perspective is at the heart of what we do at EDMO, where we prepare students not just for the challenges they'll face in academic settings but for the myriad of situations they'll encounter in life. This translates to equipping kids with the ability to think critically and view problems from diverse angles, fostering a more comprehensive and empathetic understanding of the world. Our aim is to inspire and prepare students for a future where intelligence is balanced with the compassion and courage to make a lasting positive impact. At EDMO, we're committed to developing well-rounded individuals who are ready to face the world with curiosity, courage, and kindness. We are committed to incorporating these philosophies that help set EDMO apart. 

Scientific Sources

Frontiers - Social Emotional Learning and Academic Achievement 

Frontiers - From STEM to STEAM: An Enactive and Ecological Continuum

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