Based on the acronym alone, you might assume that STEM education focuses on learning science, technology, engineering, and/or mathematics. In reality, the STEM education curriculum is typically delivered via integrated learning, where two or more of the topics are combined to represent a real-world approach to problem-solving. Project-based learning techniques allow teachers to be creative with their approach in engaging students around STEM subjects.
According to the National Science Teaching Association (NSTA), “high-quality K–12 STEM education is an essential, relevant, and continual endeavor for all students.” In the NSTA’s position statement, they note that STEM education should:
- Enable students to become analytical and critical thinkers
- Increase their science, mathematics, and technology literacy
- Foster the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs
- Provide opportunities for students to engage in 21st-century skills, including teamwork, collaboration, problem solving, communication, and creative thinking
- Offer learning experiences in which students apply what they are learning in relevant, meaningful ways
While STEM education practices and curricula vary, the need for an integrated and relevant approach to educating students in these disciplines is essential to helping them meet professional demands after graduating. One way to keep students engaged and foster problem-solving skills is to integrate art with the STEM curriculum, creating a new acronym: STEAM.
“The addition of art to STEM education … makes science, technology, engineering, and math experiments more entertaining and approachable. That’s just one reason why art was added to STEM education,” notes TryEngineering on the origins of the STEAM acronym.