The Steampunk Mindset and Teaching – It works!

Modern education has often been criticized for being a bit out of touch with reality and every country seems to have a different kind of problem when it comes to education, pupil motivation and so on. What I hear from the United States at the moment is that everything is really focused on testing and this does not help the pupils at all because the teachers teach to the test and not for any greater benefit of the pupils.
In Germany the problem is that school curriculum is way behind the times. It takes between 5 and 10 years for a school text book in Germany from first draft to being used in the first lesson (and even longer than that in Bavaria).
British education suffers from a great divide between so called „public schools“ which are not public at all and only rich kids can go there and regular schools which offer a sinificantly lower standard or education.
Also, modern education is largely too focused on book-learning with endless regurgitation of facts and very little hands-on learning and experiences. Additionally, although it is generally accepted that there should be more cross-learning (i.e. geography lessons being tought in a foreign lannguage, IT supporting biology in a research project etc.), relatively little is happening in that direction.
This is where Steampunk comes in.
Look at this piece of art:

Steampunk Keyboard by Admiral Ravensdale
Steampunk Keyboard by Admiral Ravensdale

 

This keyboard requires considerabal skills in the following fields:
Engineering/Metalwork and Art. Since it is a fully functional computer keyboard,a project that aims towards creating such a keyboard could naturally cross over into IT.

So, with one fell swoop, you get pubils interested in metalwork, in art, and in IT all in one room working together. I don’t know what it was like in your stool but those three groups of people interested in those three subjects are usually at odds with one another. So this project would actually increase the harmony in a class.

 

Here is another example (also by Admiral Ravensdale):

Light-bulb biotope
Light-bulb self-sustaining biotope

This is a far simpler project but one that can be extended, let me split it up for you:

 

  1. Biology: Find suitable plants via research (possibly guided by the teacher)
  2. School outing: Go into the woods and collect those plants or their seeds
  3. Metalwork or general crafting: Construct biotope
  4. (optional for older pupils) Use a bigger container like a clear pickle jar for the construction of a more complex biotope

The benefit of the Steampunk mindset in education doesn’t end there.

Apart from the fascinating projects you could introduce to the classroom there’s also the philosophy. You could infect the pupils with the steampunk mindset and by that I mean a general sense of optimism and can-do mentality. From personal experience and I think most of you have had similar experiences in school you get told too often that something is not possible something cannot be done or „There is no place for this here. / You are too young.“ Instead, this should be replaced with „We see what we can do.“.

Additionally steampunk projects teach children that modern technology does not have to be all plastic and aluminum. Instead they are shown that computers, iPhones, and other devices can also have casings made out of wood that modern technology does not have to be run of the mill doesn’t have to be all cold and grey and white but that in fact all technology can be transformed into a piece of art.

Furthermore they can be introduced to the concept of upcycling, that you can go and take something that was discarded, especially technology, and from the discard pile create something new and maybe even something better. This way they may actually also learne that you do not have to throw everything away but that our wasteful society we live in now does not have to be, that everything you disard can be used to create something new, something useful, some piece of art and some piece of art which you can also use.

So, Steampunk offers a lot of potential in education, from cross-subject projects with beautiful results to teaching a mindset that is not focused on consumerism and watse of resources but rather recycling and upcycling. We need more Steampunks in education, that’s for sure!