What is STEAM?

Leonardo birds

Putting the A for Art into STEAM

Ivy Wigmore writes for Tech Target:

“STEAM is an educational approach that incorporates the arts into the more-familiar STEM model, which includes science, technology, engineering and mathematics. STEAM programs can include any of the visual or performing arts, such as dance, design, painting, photography and writing.

The focus has been on STEM fields and education for them since the late 20th century, when the ongoing shortage of technology workers began. Since that time, government agencies in many countries around the world have invested heavily in STEM education and its promotion. The emphasis on fostering STEM skills has inescapably led to decreased emphasis on other subjects in the arts and humanities, with the result that funding for them has dwindled and students have fewer arts-related options.

Reintegrating art and design into education has been demonstrated to increase the happiness and well-being of students. From a business and perspective, the major payoffs include better problem-solving skills and increased creativity and innovation. The integration of arts into STEM education and fields may also help encourage more participation by women in what have been male-dominated areas.”

Jo teaching a Sutton Steam workshop


Jo Sharpe founded CATS Club in 2015. The club developed quite naturally.

“I used to run a craft club, then started Budding Artists. After completing a masters in PGCE Design and Technology I developed CATS Club, another acronym which stands for craft, art, technology, science. I have been running it as an after school club for several years now and I personally think it is really brilliant!’

Whilst doing my PGCE a Goldsmiths University, I learnt that children learn more through active engagement. My mission is to open children’s eyes to the greatest inventor of them all: Nature. I also aim to show children the links that exist between different subjects – eg art, science, engineering, design and technology, maths, and sometimes geography and history. This makes learning more rounded and less compartmentalised.

Patterns in Nature

Natural forms are often used by me as an ongoing theme.

For example, creating a product analysis of natural objects such as seedheads.  Why is it shaped like that?  What else is shaped like that? Are they from the same family? I try to get children to see the patterns found in Nature and include lessons on Sunflowers and the Fibonacci sequence.

Weekly themes often link to the seasons and some favourite lessons include  lessons on plastics, mechanisms, biomimicry, pixel art, space, and pop up books.

Teaching Creativity

Personally, I think art should always have been included in this type of teaching and the fact it was not, demonstrates how marginalised Art can be as a subject. Art is really important as it helps us to see the world from different perspectives. Drawing helps us to see things more clearly by taking the time to really observe. It also helps with resilience and problem solving.

To make it clearer, think Leonardo Da Vinci. He was a genius in so many subjects but I believe his drawing skills, genius  creativity and his understanding of Nature helped him to be the great inventor he became.

James Dyson grew up in rural Norfolk and studied art at the Royal College of Art before transferring to engineering, look what innovative designs he has produced.

Having spent several years working in secondary schools in DT departments, there are some excellent and some poor delivery of Design and Technology. In some schools it is in decline due to the coasts involved in the expense of supplying and maintaining resources such as tools, sewing machines and laser cutters. Practical subjects should also be taught in smaller groups of 20 children and we need larger classrooms. With such an importance placed on health and safety, Head teachers may decide  to steer pupils away from practical subjects towards safer, more bland computer based subjects.

Of course academic education is very highly sought, but in many of our schools the motivation is to train children to pass exams rather than be creative, problem solving individuals . This will mean we fall behind as a nation in innovation.  I believe right- brain creative children can also achieve great successes and be true future innovators.

Why not watch a very interesting discussion Sir Ken Robinson TED talk: Do schools kill creativity? | TED Talk

At the moment CATS Club is an After School Club with occasional workshops in libraries and museums run by myself. I would like to develop it further.

With additional funding I could also also run workshops in schools and museums and libraries. Perhaps a future goal might be for every child in primary school in my borough of Sutton to have some experience of CATS Club lessons.

In the meantime, if you would like a STEAM workshop in your school, please contact me.

Find out about my other classes for children https://www.jo-sharpe.co.uk/budding-artists/