Europeana: A Resource For STEAM Activities

Being a part of the Europeana Education community since 2018 has substantially enriched my teaching activities with new ideas and possibilities. At the beginning of my involvement in the Europeana Education initiative, I was reluctant: how could I use digital cultural heritage materials in my maths lessons? But after an initial introduction with Europeana’s materials and resources, I have seen that many of them can be quite useful in mathematical, but also for any other science lessons. Since then, I have applied Europeana resources many times, mostly for increasing students’ motivation for difficult concepts such as Cartesian coordinates or Euclidian geometry and proofs.

Sharing experience with colleagues

I wanted to share my experience with colleagues and recommend Europeana as a valuable resource for teaching ideas. The opportunity came up on the 24th of September 2020, when I shared my experiences about using Europeana. During the Science on Stage event organised by the Institute for Contemporary Education from Belgrade, I showed examples of my teaching practice at a webinar attended by more 200 Serbian teachers. The webinar was a part of the event dedicated to “Days of European Heritage” and consisted of three online lectures. All lectures focused on the connection of cultural heritage and STEM subjects, and one of them was mine, dedicated to Europeana.

Serbian teachers were significantly interested in my lecture, after which we organised an online meeting where teachers had an opportunity to talk with the lectures trough Google meet and clarify and get additional information.

Introducing the Europeana Education Community to more teachers

My first step at the webinar was to introduce teachers with Europeana website, but also with the Europeana Education community. Besides information about historical heritage, Europeana offers lesson plans that can be used in any classroom. The Teaching with Europeana blog not only makes these recourses accessible to educators, but it also gives them the possibilities to exchange opinions and tips about lessons plans. That is an enriching way to start with using cultural heritage resources before creating its own lesson plan.

Examples of Europeana STEAM learning scenarios

In the second part of my lecture, I presented my learning scenarios. For example, I have linked mathematics, origami, and architecture to Bauhaus research, based on the resources available on the Europeana portal.
Both origami and architecture rely on mathematics, and Bauhaus is just an example of how students in Austria, in the early 20th century, explored these concepts through multidisciplinary, by combining mathematics and art. I also used Europeana blog articles about Isaac Newton or Rene Descartes to increase students’ motivation to learn mathematics.

What impact on students?

In the first grade of high school, students learn about Descartes’ product of sets. However, many of them did not know much about this famous mathematician, known for connecting algebra and geometry. Exploring the characteristics of Descartes’ product (Cartesian), we came to a resource about Christina, a fearless Swedish queen who highly valued mathematics. Not many know that Rene Descartes was her teacher. The valuable details we found thanks to Europeana made the tasks related to the sets and Descartes’ product even more fascinating.

‘Europeana helped me and my students to make maths easier and more beautiful during the pandemic and online schooling.’

Since students have a significant number of classes dedicated to geometry and the properties of triangles and quadrilaterals, I wanted to show them how to connect art and geometry. After processing the properties of these geometric figures with the students, we researched the resources of Europeana, came across the art of the famous painter Mondrian, who used the geometric aesthetics of rectangular shapes and primary colours in his work. At the end of the lesson, I encouraged students to combine mathematics and art, inspired by Mondrian in his works.

Why don’t you try and start using Europeana for your STEAM lesson?

When I first started using Europeana, I was a bit sceptical about using digital cultural heritage for my STEM lessons, as they mainly seemed to be related to art or history. Through careful research and planning, I found a lot of material for mathematics lessons. Other examples and learning scenarios that teachers can use in their practice, which I have created, can be found on the Teaching with Europeana blog.

Find out more about using digital cultural heritage for STEM education

Written by Natalija Budinski, Europeana user Group teacher.

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