STEM is one of the latest educational buzzwords making the rounds, but it is quickly being elbowed out of the picture by STEAM education. This acronym includes arts education in the mix. Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics is an integrated approach to teaching students through collaborative and creative experiential learning activities.
Defining STEM Education
By now, every educator knows the STEM acronym, but what does it really look like in a classroom setting? At its heart, STEM education marries these different disciplines and applies academic concepts to hands-on, real-world activities. It is preferable for STEM lessons to connect to some aspect of the world outside the classroom. For example, students could work in teams to find better ways of containing oil spills or capturing solar power.
Understanding STEAM Education
STEAM is the same integrated approach with the same topic areas as STEM, but with a nod to arts education. The growing popularity of STEAM acknowledges the importance of creativity, innovation and imagination in developing and implementing STEM-based projects. Of course, it is not necessary to include each subject area in every activity. Teachers can combine an artistic approach with a science project, for example, or students can use technology to develop artistic designs. STEAM students can even partner with real-world companies and initiatives to develop solutions to problems. For instance, students can partner with medical tech companies to create a series of artistic posters that reflect the pathophysiology of melanoma in order to raise community awareness about skin cancer.
Understanding the Need for STEAM
Some people remain unconvinced that STEAM can really be beneficial to students. After all, students take art classes along with math and science, so why do these subjects need to be integrated? For starters, because the world is continuously changing, education should change right along with it to meet the demands of new generations. Students today are far more tech-savvy than the Gen Xers before them. They stream entertainment online, read books on a screen, and give voice commands to digital assistants. But there is something lost in all that technological innovation—the search for a higher truth. Artistry and beauty, when integrated with STEM curricula, speak to students on a deeper, more meaningful level.
Triggering Student Engagement
Plenty of people today acknowledge that, despite the surge of interest in STEM, there still are not enough students who are pursuing STEM education. A 21st century workforce needs STEM-educated innovators, and perhaps one way to attract more students to STEM fields is to entice them with the arts. Liberal arts majors who have never taken a college-level science course before might be more willing to give chemistry a try if it has an artistic or design component to it. When combined with an artistic approach, science, technology, engineering and mathematics seem more accessible and intriguing to creatively inclined students.
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