STEAM in schools
STEAM education is visible in German primary schools in the form of the school subject “Sachunterricht”, that can be translated as “Research class”. It is a school subject that combines different disciplinary perspectives, such as science, technology and social sciences (Eckhardt, 2019). The lessons are based on the realities of children’s lives, with the aim of developing sustainable and relevant knowledge of e.g. health, environment, communication and media (The Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder in the Federal Republic of Germany [KMK], 2015). However, the primary responsibility for legislation and administration of education in Germany rests with the 16 federal states that make up the country, so the curriculum varies depending on the state (Eckhardt, 2019).
In the secondary level, the subjects of STEAM are usually divided and taught separately. Regarding the subjects mathematics, biology, chemistry, and physics, the states’ curricula have been developed in accordance with the national educational standards (ger. Bildungsstandards) given by KMK (Eckhardt, 2019). Depending on the state and the school, there might be elective courses that combine Science, Technology, and Engineering as a natural continuation of the “Sachunterricht” subject.
Local STEAM initiatives and support
In addition to the curriculum, most of the federal states have further specifications and guidelines to support the implementation of STEAM education in primary and secondary schools. These requirements differ from state to state. For example, the state of North Rhine-Westphalia uses a Media Competence Framework (Medienkompetenzrahmen NRW ) to implement the national requirements regarding media competence. In addition to a formulation of requirements, it describes interdisciplinary teaching ideas for all grades and provides related materials.
To support the implementation of interdisciplinary education and implementation of STEAM education furthermore, STEAM is part of teacher training programs, organised by the state or institutions that are part of the German education system, for example universities. There are teacher training courses that focus on a specific subject, but there are also those that focus on a specific type of school or grade level and associated interdisciplinary STEAM teaching, for example in the form of project days that can be implemented by schools.
There are also many out-of-school learning sites and initiatives that provide support for implementing cross-curricular STEAM lessons. The university of Paderborn, for example, offers not only project days for schools like the “Schülerkryptotag” (student-crypto-day) to combine technology and engineering, but also information events to support orientation for additional education in STEAM-Areas (https://www.uni-paderborn.de/universitaet/mintunipb/). Many museums have teaching-learning labs and a wide range of events to support schools, such as the Heinz-Nixdorf-Museum and associated school lab coolMINT.
Nationwide STEAM initiatives
Eckhardt, T. (Ed.). (2019). The Education System in the Federal Republic of Germany 2017/2018: A description of the responsibilities, structures and developments in education policy for the exchange of information in Europe. https://www.kmk.org/fileadmin/Dateien/pdf/Eurydice/Bildungswesen-engl-pdfs/dossier_en_ebook.pdf Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder in the Federal Republic of Germany. Secretariat of the Standing.
Vom, d. F. (2015). The standing conference of the ministers of education and cultural affairs of the Länder in the Federal Republic of Germany. Empfehlungen zur Arbeit in der Grundschule vom 02.07.1970 i Retrieved 11/6/2015. https://www.kmk.org/fileadmin/veroeffentlichungen_beschluesse/1970/1970_07_02_Empfehlungen_Grundschule.pdf