In connection with education, STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Add in Arts (not just Fine Arts) and you have STEAM. STEM / STEAM are not a way of learning, but a high-level set of categories in which learning is desired. When our children are attending school either in the classroom or at home, we may evaluate curriculum content as to how it maps across these categories.
But how about games and books? Can these activities give us some of our needed STEM / STEAM coverage? Or, better yet, springboard us into related activities and inspire some inquiries?
The short answer is, “Yes, of course!” We humans learn very well through games and stories. Both can introduce and reinforce concepts, provide opportunities for learning-related discussions, and generally just make learning fun and therefore more memorable.
These days, games and game-like activities with baked in STEM / STEAM concepts are just a web search away. Even our own print-and-play games are mainly math and science-centric. And as with us, playing games and listening to stories can lead naturally to your own game design and storytelling adventures.
This is where STEM / STEAM can really come to the fore. Developing our own educational games required a lot of research and experimentation. Our investigations and skill development led us down all sorts of rabbit holes of learning. This is true for our stories too, though the STEM is typically presented in a “softer” manner than with the games.
We can consider our Pirate Pursuit games about real pirate lore as an example. The pirate lore cards contain many facts from the time of the first treasure fleets to the end of the Golden Age of Piracy. Being able to answer the questions on these cards lets the players succeed at the games. This is a strong incentive to learn the knowledge included in the game.
On the other hand, consider reading a historical novel like our The Day the Pirates Went Mad. The story is an entertaining adventure peppered with nuggets of knowledge about the geography, history, technology, and personalities of the Age of Sail. This might prompt discussion or inquiries, or the knowledge might just sit in the back of the reader’s brain until one day it becomes relevant.
Of course, the amount of research that goes into these sorts of projects often far exceeds what the player or reader will experience directly. To aid others in tapping into the knowledge needed to forge their creations, a designer or author may provide accompanying resources (or links to the same).
Part of our goal has always been to share what we have learned along the way. And for those teachers and students in the classroom or homeschool that want to go a little deeper into the research behind the action, we are creating resources to extend those educational opportunities. For example, in the case of The Day the Pirates Went Mad, we’re drawing out some of the STEM / STEAM aspects of Emma’s adventures with add-on activities for our Teacher’s Guide.
The most recent of these is a dessert recipe from Cookie’s Cookbook. And if that isn’t baked in STEM / STEAM, what is? 😉
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At Silverpath Publishing / PlayGames2Learn.com, we believe in #LearningThroughPlay to help #MakeLearningFun. We publish fiction and educational tabletop games for children and young adults.
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