The first EASE spring conference was held in presence from the 22nd to 26th of May 2023 at the Liceo Don Manuel II-Rodrigues de Freitas secondary school in Porto, Portugal. The event was dedicated to EASE, the first European network of STEAM educators, the branch of transdisciplinary education born around the 2000s in the United States and arrived about ten years ago in European and Italian education. The acronym, from STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), has subsequently seen the addition of the letter “A”, in reference to the Arts and, more recently, also of the “R” of Reading, to strengthen the activities related to knowing how to read, understand and rework a text: the STREAM. The conference was organized with the sponsors Erasmus+, Digigeunes, Edutech Europe, Cricut, Ingegno and Mission Control Lab, and hosted speakers from Europe, India, Turkey and the United States.

Workshop “Creative STEAM lessons using Cricut”, Maria Cristina Ciocci, EASE Spring Conference 2023

STEAM breaks the traditional frontal and pyramidal teaching method and promotes formal and informal design learning, which activates processes of collaboration, coordination and use of knowledge and technological tools connected to the network, for the resolution of real problems related to the society. A holistic approach that aims to make generations active, supporting the development of transversal skills such as critical thinking and communication, bringing them closer to the new needs of the work field, creating better opportunities for their future.

Anna Papageorgiou STEM Center, Anatolia College

In the context of the EASE spring conference, I mention some of the personalities who attended. Iro Koliakou and Zoi Tsiviltidou work in the Anna Papageorgiou STEM Center, belonging to Anatolia College and the America Pinewood International School based in Thessaloniki in Greece, the first of its kind that blends American culture with European one. Here we find, for example, the Mini Open Labs, small laboratories open to the local community, where children under the guidance of teachers or other educators, including parents, can engage in projects based on STEM and sustainable development, or the STEMigrants project, a website to support the integration of refugees and immigrants through STEM activities. Madhumalti Sharma, from Luxemburg, technical manager, entrepreneur, technology educator and founder of Workshop4me which she shares with her children, co-authors of the activities of programming, robotics, artificial intelligence and of the book Let’s code Python, together with Prithwis Mukerjee: the book, halfway between theory and exercises, it is an extraordinary example of communication capable of uniting different generations through creativity with Big Data in the field of Data Science.

Image from the book Let’s code python, 2021, courtesy of the author, Madhumalti Sharma

Chrysanthi Katrini of CollectiveUP from Belgium spoke about unconscious (or implicit) human biases which, unlike conscious biases, are points of view and opinions that we are unaware of and how these dangerously influence the design of AI: the attention around bias algorithms today is of fundamental importance to avoid harmful forms of racism, sexism, classism, lookism, ageism and many other unwitting discriminatory practices, in science and engineering. Professor Chiara Schettino from Italy illustrated some solutions for STEAM lessons made with low-cost material to bring young people and non-experts closer to the exploration of nanotechnologies, usually limited to equipped research centres. The professors of the host school Luìsa Melo, Beatriz Costa, Nuno Francisco and Nuno Oliveira led the conference speakers on a tour of the city with an inquiry methodology discovering the history and the chemical composition of the waters of the city’s fountains, as well as of the stone of which the much of Porto’s architecture is made: granite. Nelson Gomes from Portugal, educator and founder of EASE, with whom we have the opportunity to retrace the birth and development of this project.

Workshop “STEAM practices and tools for the Art Education” Giada Totaro
EASE spring conference 2023

Giada Totaro: Tell us about your professional background and when you have met the STEAM acronym for the first time: what are the reasons that led you to found a European STEAM network?

Nelson Gomes: Throughout my professional journey, I have gained diverse experiences in various fields, but one common thread connects them all: education. From extracurricular services and youth organizations focused on STEAM education, to the foundation of National Council of Social Educators, a professional collective aimed at organizing national forums, training programs, and advocating for professional rights. Furthermore, I served as a representative for local NGOs and for six years on the Executive Board of the Municipal Council for Social Action in my hometown, Torres Novas. In 2016, I established a startup called Oficina Tecnológica, based at StartUp Torres Novas. I have actively participated in organizing events such as IOTejo, a regional technology fair, and local annual science fairs in collaboration with schools, museums, science centers, and regional higher education institutions. It was around 2013 when I first encountered the term STEAM during my research on new educational methodologies. At that time, information about the concept was scarce, and it was relatively unknown, particularly in Europe. The idea for EASE emerged in 2020, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, as I realized the challenges faced by STEAM educators in preparing innovative educational projects and activities. The lack of understanding from the local territory about the potential of STEAM Education, the absence of a national or European network to support such endeavors, and the realization that other continental blocks were further advanced in their development motivated me to extend an invitation to hundreds of STEAM colleagues from all over Europe. Together, we aimed to establish a European network of educators, encompassing professionals from both formal and non-formal education contexts. Our goal is to build resources and facilitate the work of colleagues who, whether inside or outside the school system, struggle with the difficulty of preparing engaging and motivating educational activities through STEAM methodologies. Furthermore, we aim to contribute to the development of a well-defined and consolidated STEAM pedagogy, integrating it into the curricula of teacher and educator preparation courses through dedicated curricular units.

G.T.: From the beginning since nowadays the EASE network has been growing both in a virtual and physical dimension. Could you share some of the results achieved during this collaborative process that in reality goes beyond the European dimension?

N.G.: EASE is primarily an online network, and this format is essential for enabling communication and collaborative work among colleagues from different countries. While our Spring Conference provided a valuable opportunity for face-to-face interaction, it was a remarkable occasion for colleagues who had already been working remotely to meet in person. The constant work of our Executive Board, comprised of talented and dedicated colleagues, along with our annual Action Plan, demonstrates the evolution of this movement. We strive to optimize and promote the work of our fellow STEAM educators, ultimately benefiting learners of all ages, from children to young adults, and even seniors. Indeed, STEAM educational approaches are for everyone within the context of lifelong learning. Over the past year, we have achieved significant milestones. Our “Aggregate” repository now houses 140 scientific articles on STEAM Education, and our website features an additional 140 articles, attracting over 20,000 visitors from 174 countries. Furthermore, we have mapped out 1,350 Makerspaces 4 Education to facilitate networking within the European STEAM community. Our 1st European Summit for STEAM Educators garnered over 2,000 views across the two-day event. On social networks, our community has grown to approximately 2,800 members from 99 countries on Facebook. These achievements mark the consolidation of our network. However, these accomplishments also come with a responsibility to undertake projects that genuinely support our community members. The training platform serves as a valuable resource, allowing every STEAM educator to share their knowledge with the world. This platform not only internationalizes the expertise of our E-ducators but also provides them with a new opportunity for engagement and feedback. It also serves as a means to disseminate good practices in STEAM Education. Additionally, we offer a marketplace where our organizational members can share their STEAM Education products or services with our community at no cost to them. Content creation, lesson plans, and other resource sharing are among our primary objectives to ensure the dynamic growth of our network.

EASE Executive Board 2023 members: Ana Louro, Simone Ferrecchia, Lidia Ristea, Maria-Cristina Ciocci, Giada Totaro, Nelson Gomes, Madhumalti Sharma, Mirko Labbri, Iro Koliakou

G.T.: Future plans, future wishes and why a STEAM expert should join EASE?

N.G.: Our future plans revolve around maintaining and expanding our network, while consistently engaging in innovative activities that showcase the value of European STEAM educators to the world. We aim to provide a clear and easily understandable conceptual definition of STEAM Education and foster meaningful discussions on STEAM Pedagogy. These objectives require collaborative efforts with partners and researchers in the field. However, our greatest aspiration is to individually support each member of our network. We believe that by cultivating a context of mutual aid and collaboration, we can enhance our learning, development, and capacity as STEAM educators. In the face of educational disruptions caused by factors such as the emergence of artificial intelligence, we must overcome challenges in preparing innovative and impactful educational activities. For experts in STEAM education, the network should act as an amplifier, enabling them to showcase their work to our community and the world, facilitating the sharing of best practices. Moreover, EASE should provide opportunities to connect with our network and collaborate within teams, allowing individuals to make meaningful contributions. Ultimately, our network should empower us to become better STEAM educators. This is my foremost wish.

Visit EASE Spring Conference 2023’s complete program:

Web site e-training platform