The STEM to STEAM movement has been taking root over the past several years and is surging forward as a positive mode of action to truly meet the needs of a 21st century economy. STEM alone misses several key components that many employers, educators, and parents have voiced as critical for our children to thrive in the present and rapidly approaching future.
Much has been proclaimed about the need for more STEM “programs” in our schools. The logic is simple: the wave of future economic prosperity lies in a workforce that is well-versed in rising job markets like science, technology, engineering and math. Thus, there has been an increased investment in STEM initiatives in schools. This includes (but is not limited to):
- providing mobile devices for students (sometimes in the forms of computer labs, and other times in the form of 1:1 – a single device for each student)
- after-school STEM clubs or programs
- STEM curriculum, where projects using STEM practices are embedded
- BYOD initiatives (bring your own device)
- STEM days to encourage hands-on exploration within each of these disciplines
- robotics programs
While these initiatives are a wonderful start into the exploration of these four areas of study, the critical process of creativity and innovation is missing. Students in STEM programs may have more experiential learning opportunities, but they are limited to only science, technology, engineering and math. Our economy requires so much more than an understanding of these areas – it requires application, creation and ingenuity. STEM alone does not foster these essential nutrients.
STEAM is a way to take the benefits of STEM and complete the package by integrating these principles in and through the arts. STEAM takes STEM to the next level: it allows students to connect their learning in these critical areas together with arts practices, elements, design principles, and standards to provide the whole pallet of learning at their disposal. STEAM removes limitations and replaces them with wonder, critique, inquiry, and innovation.