STEM is an educational curriculum that combines Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. It is meant to work together such that instead of teaching each subject separately, teachers aim to interlace some or all of the elements of STEM into project-based work. Some examples of STEM related projects include mission based and outreach activities such as custom made aircrafts to bridge building exercises.
STEAM on the other hand is to take all individual subjects of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math and add Art to it. STEAM activities take an artistic flair to it, or what some people call a creative element to STEM based study. STEAM projects can anything related to creating an engineering project with particular attention to aesthetic quality of the product. One very obvious example is that of the iPad. The simple yet holistic apple design has transformed how we see our lives – and our possible futures.
There is a belief that STEM related activities and real life modelling will encourage more children to study technical subjects but by adding in art to make STEAM, there is a good chance that more girls will be encourage to enter this field too. Some common and popular classroom based activities include Borax Crystal Flowers to Kaleidoscope making.
Benefits and Challenges
There can be many benefits with embedding STEM or STEAM related activities in the classroom and students can take advantage of this by becoming hands-on and involved in the process of creation. For example:
- In Science, students are involved in developing experiments and learn about how things work. Becoming more hands on and taking part in practical work is exciting and helps students understand visually what it means to make things happen.
- Additionally, taking a more creative way forward, Design and Technology is the combination of many subject together, involving maths and science based concepts, in making things, designing, drawing, building and learning through trial and error.
However, like with any new change, there are also challenges:
- Some students do not like STEM or STEAM related subjects because they have no interest in the subject area. The statistics demonstrate that girls generally find it hard or challenging and mostly boring. This could be partly related to particular teaching styles and finding new and innovative teaching styles, as accepted by the students, may change the perception of STEM related subjects.
- Others find that working with STEM or STEAM related projects takes them out of their comfort zone which makes it challenging and difficult to process. Like anything though, learning to do something new takes time and eventually through trial and error, and support from peers, working in new and innovative ways can become acceptable and perhaps fun.
Highlights/Take Away Points
What is really important for STEM or STEAM education is that students learn how subjects such as Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Art apply into their lives, along with critical thinking and reasoning skills that allow them to identify a problem and find ways to solve it. Finding new and innovative approaches to existing problems is a key skill needed in today’s economy and the workplace of the future.
What does it really matter if it is STEM, STEAM or even STREAM (R in place for Writing, Reading and Literacy skills). The aim at the end of it is to look for these marks of quality:
- Ensure that students are learning and engaged to real life problems using some or all of STEM related subjects along with creative and innovative ways of looking at the problem.
- Encourage project based learning tasks where students are making observations, conducting trial and error, can identify problems, solve problems, work independent and with their peers. This is how people work.
- Project based learning should look to incorporate all topic skills, including that of reading, writing and speaking persuasively, to interpret and analyse data and make sense of it.
We need students who are engaged, motivated and competent in solving tomorrow’s problems. When push comes to shove, its not STEM or STEAM, it is about making our generation fully literate so that they can prepare our future for us.
- Why is STEM education so important?
- STEM needs to be updated to STREAM