Skip to content
STEM vs STEAM: Cody Block Explains

STEM vs STEAM: Cody Block Explains

For the last few decades, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) has been at the forefront of educational discourse. These are crucial subjects for preparing students to meet the challenges of the 21st century, where technological advancements and scientific breakthroughs shape our daily lives.

However, over the last few years, a new approach emerged that built upon the foundation of STEM by incorporating the Arts, resulting in the acronym STEAM. The addition of the arts brought in a new dimension to learning, fostering creativity, innovation, and the application of problem solving skills in real life contexts. In today’s fast-paced, technology-driven world, STEAM education has become increasingly important, as it equips students with the skills and mindset necessary to thrive as technological development continues to accelerate in every aspect of society.

Girl playing with Cody Block in elementary school classroom

Understanding STEAM

STEAM education goes beyond the traditional boundaries of STEM subjects by integrating the Arts into the learning process. The Arts play a crucial role in STEAM by nurturing soft skills such as creativity, collaboration, teamwork, and adaptability. These skills are essential for success not only in the modern workforce, where individuals are expected to work effectively in diverse teams, think outside the box, and adapt to new challenges, but also in daily life. By connecting STEM subjects to real-world contexts through artistic expression, STEAM education enhances student engagement and motivation, making learning more relevant and meaningful.

STEAM also represents a shift from knowledge-based to skill-based learning. In the past, education focused primarily on the acquisition of knowledge, with students memorising facts and figures. However, in today’s world, where information is readily available at our fingertips, the emphasis has shifted towards developing skills that enable students to apply knowledge to solve complex problems. STEAM education prepares students for future challenges and unknown problems by fostering a versatile and adaptable mindset.

Examples of STEAM in action can be found in various educational settings. For instance, a high school origami workshop can combine mathematical concepts such as geometry and spatial reasoning with the artistic process of paper folding. Similarly, a kindergarten project on tree communication can integrate biology, environmental science, and creative storytelling through painting to help young learners understand the interconnectedness of nature.

The Importance of Hands-On Learning

Hands-on learning is a critical component of STEAM education. It involves actively engaging students in the learning process through practical, experiential activities. Instead of passively receiving information, students are encouraged to explore, experiment, and discover concepts through direct interaction with materials and tools. Hands-on learning has numerous benefits, including improved knowledge retention and consolidation, increased student engagement and motivation, and the development of problem-solving and critical thinking skills.

In STEAM education, hands-on learning plays a vital role in bridging the gap between theory and practice. By providing students with opportunities to apply their knowledge in authentic, real-world contexts, hands-on learning helps them develop a deeper understanding of complex concepts and see the relevance of their learning beyond the classroom. Moreover, hands-on learning fosters a sense of ownership and empowerment, as students take an active role in their own learning journey.

Introducing Cody Block

Cody Block is an innovative educational tool that embodies the STEAM approach to learning. A wooden car stuffed with modern technology that students control directly through smart wooden blocks with RFID chips inside, each carrying a command to Cody. Cody Block encourages hands-on exploration and sensory learning, allowing students to physically interact with the blocks and discover concepts through tactile exploration.

One of the key features of Cody Block is its ability to promote collaboration, communication, and problem-solving. Students can work together to build paths, create patterns, and solve challenges, fostering teamwork and social skills. The open-ended nature of Cody Block activities encourages students to think creatively and develop their own solutions, promoting divergent thinking and innovation.

Cody Block also has real-world relevance, as it helps demystify technology for young learners. By introducing computational thinking through physical blocks, Cody Block makes technology accessible and tangible, helping students understand how digital systems work. Moreover, the activities and challenges with Cody Block can revolve around everyday scenarios such as finding the way home, getting to and from kindergarten, or the more fanciful things like creating a maze. This makes the learning experience more relatable and meaningful.

Implementing Cody Block in Educational Settings

Cody Block facilitates open-ended and enhanced learning environments that prioritise student-centered exploration. In a Cody Block classroom, students take an active role in their learning, making decisions, experimenting with different approaches, and learning from their mistakes. This approach promotes autonomy, self-directedness, and self-management, essential skills for lifelong learning.

The role of a teacher changes from instructor to facilitator when using Cody Block. Instead of providing direct instruction, teachers create a supportive and stimulating environment that encourages students to explore, ask questions, and share their discoveries. This shift in the teacher’s role fosters a collaborative learning culture, where knowledge sharing and negotiation between students and teachers are valued.

Cody Block offers several benefits in the classroom setting. The sturdy and screen-free design makes it suitable for hands-on exploration, reducing the reliance on digital devices in the classroom, instead promoting physical interaction. The adaptability of Cody Block allows it to be used for both play and learning, making it a versatile tool for various age groups and subject areas. Moreover, the learning-by-doing approach of Cody Block aligns with the principles of constructionism, where students construct, negotiate and create knowledge in small groups in the classroom.

STEM vs STEAM in an old style classroom

Computational Thinking and Cody Block

Computational thinking is a fundamental skill in STEAM education, as it involves using problem-solving strategies and logical thinking to tackle complex challenges. It involves breaking down problems into smaller, manageable parts (decomposition), recognizing patterns and similarities (pattern and sequential recognition), and developing step-by-step solutions (algorithmic thinking).

Cody Block promotes computational thinking skills through its various activities and challenges. As students engage with Cody Block, they naturally develop sequencing and pattern recognition skills by arranging blocks in specific orders to achieve desired outcomes. The process of breaking down larger paths into smaller pieces to figure out how to get Cody to where they want him to go helps students develop decomposition and abstraction skills, essential for understanding complex systems.

Moreover, Cody Block encourages algorithmic thinking and problem-solving by presenting students with open-ended challenges that require them to develop their own solutions. By experimenting with different approaches, testing their ideas, and refining their strategies, students develop a systematic and logical reasoning and mindset that is transferable to other domains.

What's next?

STEAM education and hands-on learning are essential for preparing students for the challenges of the 21st century. By integrating the Arts into STEM subjects, STEAM education fosters creativity, innovation, and problem-solving skills, equipping students with the versatile and adaptable mindset necessary for success in today’s increasingly fast-paced, technology-driven world.

Cody Block is a prime example of how STEAM education can be implemented in educational settings. By combining technology with traditional elements and encouraging hands-on exploration, Cody Block promotes computational thinking skills, collaboration, and real-world problem-solving. As educators, it is crucial to embrace STEAM and innovative tools like Cody Block to provide students with engaging, relevant, and meaningful learning experiences that prepare them for the future.

By incorporating STEAM principles and hands-on learning in our classrooms, we can create a generation of critical thinkers, problem solvers, and innovators who are ready to tackle the challenges of tomorrow. So join us in embracing the power of STEAM and tools like Cody Block, and empower our students to become the creators, inventors, and leaders of the future.