The CHOICE Project intends to innovate STEM education and contribute to the policy reform of STEM curricula in European secondary schools by providing teachers and students with tools and resources promoting the STE(A)M approach, connecting STEM subjects with Arts and All the other disciplines. The project’s partnership is composed of non-profit organisations, business and private sector, education and training institutions, from five European countries: Italy, Spain, Greece, Cyprus and Belgium.
The project’s final conference, ‘Investing in People and STEM : Innovative Cross-disciplinary STE(A)M approaches to education’, held on the 29th of November 2022 in Brussels in partnership with the European Economic and Social Committee, was attended by more than 90 participants (teachers, students, educators, policy makers, representatives of EU institutions and representatives of civil society organisations in the field of education and training, general public interested in the topic). The event, opened by Monica Verzola (vice chairman of LLLP and member of the board of EVTA, was the concluding moment of the 3-year project CHOICE, where the project and its results were presented, and student and teacher testimonies heard.
The main outcomes presented during the event were the state of the art analysis on existing initiatives, best practices, attitudes and approaches towards STEAM education and the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) promoting STE(A)M education for students, educators and teachers which collects Open Educational Resources (OERs) co-created with the students and teachers involved in the project; the project recommendation on how to promote the STE(A)M approach.
The CHOICE MOOC is composed of five different modules which address five macro-areas: STEM& arts; experiential projects; STEM & teaching languages; using technology in social sciences; STEM & sports. The project’s success is measured by the positive impact it has had on student interest in STEM: following the project’s implementation, student’s interest in STEAM increased by 10%. Students and teachers from the Italian, Cypriot, Greek, and Spanish schools presented the OERs developed in the framework of the project, as “The Starry Night”, where students covered Van Gogh’s renowned painting with origami and studied the mathematics behind each shape.
The conference ended with a fruitful panel discussion around the topic of “Innovative approaches on the promotion and improvement of STE(A)M education at school,” with a focus on EU policy development. The panel, composed of Michael Mcloughlin (European Economic and Social Committee | Youth Work Ireland); MEP Victor Negrescu (European Parliament), Leonie Bultynck (European Commission, DG EAC), Evita Tasiopoulou (Science Education Department, European Schoolnet), was moderated by Jon Harding (Vice chairman I treasurer, LLLP).
The panellists emphasised that the different STEM/STE(A)M initiatives in Europe should be interconnected across regional and national levels. In this way, STEM education can grow and evolve, and build on different practices and approaches. It is important to involve local authorities and ministries, support institutions, and listen to students in a learner-centred approach. STE(A)M education touches upon many sectors and should involve all of them. Industries could be more involved and integrated into school curricula, to stimulate STEM careers.
The panel particularly focused on STEM and gender equality. Currently, far more men than women are pursuing STEM careers: STEM education should be more fun, more ‘attractive’, related to everyday life, and provide more female role models to be truly inclusive. There are other inequalities in STEM education, such as those related to socio-economic status, belonging to national or ethnic minority, etc. Overall, all speakers agreed that, at local, national and European level, STEM education and careers should take a more intersectional approach, be adapted to the needs of students and schools, and receive more resources.
The project’s final conference raised important action points on how to sustain the project’s results with time, and, thereby, how to promote and improve STE(A)M education at local, regional, national and European levels. In this regard, it would be important to have a European network for STEM education that would act as a reference in the field, allowing individuals to connect and share best practices in teaching STEAM disciplines, encouraging and promoting them.
Readers are invited to read the project’s Policy Recommendations document, which deepens the lessons learned from “CHOICE” on how to support the reform of the school curricula by making the shift from STEM teaching in silos to a more interdisciplinary and practice-oriented approach of STE(A)M education.
Schools involved in the project:
Other project partners are: Lifelong Learning Platform, CESIE (Italy), EUROTraining (Greece), Blue Room Innovation (Spain), GrantXpert Consulting (Cyprus).
The acronym STEM derives from Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics, and it is a curriculum based on the idea of educating students in four specific disciplines — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — in an interdisciplinary and applied approach.