The Benefits of a STEM Education [STEAM]
In a job economy driven by rapidly changing technology, it’s more important than ever that our schools foster a love of learning. Starting our students on a steady dose of STEM curriculum in elementary primes them to become the inquisitive kiddos that lead to ambitious adults.
What does STEM stand for?
For anyone who’s seen the term STEM, but kept it on the periphery, here’s a bit of background. The acronym stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Recently, a study of the arts was added to the educational model, making STEAM an interchangeable term you might also hear.
In school, STEM or STEAM lessons are taught using an integrative approach that shows how each subject relates to and works with the others. This interdisciplinary instruction also closely mirrors how these concept applications function in the working world.
Educational Benefits of STEM
The sooner our students are exposed to STEM activities the better. It may be scientific achievements like the first black hole picture or the fascinating technological developments. Regardless of the a child’s interested in a particular subject, we know that during the elementary years a child’s synapses are most impressionable. Youngsters have an innate drive toward curiosity. STEAM programming prioritizes and encourages this curiosity, making lessons easier to internalize.
By making it accessible to anyone, STEM education benefits everyone in the classroom by:
Reducing lesson and testing anxiety. The principles of STEM diminish stress by putting the focus on the student’s ability to learn and grow, encouraging a belief in oneself.
Making it okay to fail. Our mistakes are powerful teachers. Even STEM leaders of the past knew this. When the environment is safe and welcoming, students don’t fear punishment of failure and learn to view it as an opportunity to simply explore or try new things.
Prioritizing the 4 C’s. No matter their age, whatever their job title, they’re going to need to know how to interact well with others. STEAM helps develop the necessary 21st-century learning skills including creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication.
Helping them apply meaning. STEM curriculum is engaging and motivates students to think through real world-inspired scenarios. Taught in this way, the concepts make more sense and students are able to understand the value and purpose. This depth of knowledge also leads to a greater understanding of each pillar.
STEM Career Opportunities
According to the STEM Diversity at the University of Wisconsin Madison,“By 2018, it’s predicted that 8.65 million STEM jobs will exist. Nevertheless, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be a drastic shortage of almost 600,000 potential candidates for those jobs.”
So job security is almost guaranteed, but pursuing a STEM career doesn’t necessarily mean students will automatically be chained to a MIT laboratory or relegated to Silicon Valley. STEM is everywhere, permeating just about every fathomable industry.
Contrary to some of the stereotypes, STEM-led disciplines include everything from product development for the fashion industry to healthcare careers like nurses, doctors or medical assistants, engineers, or even a Legoland Designer! (And what little boy wouldn’t leap out of his chair for that job?!)
In short, there’s no better way to equip students for their life journey than to turn them into lifelong learners. Once they master this skill, there’s no realm, be it higher education or the real world, which they can’t conquer.
STEM vs STEAM
There has been somewhat of a conflict between STEM and STEAM, wherein the latter refers to Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math. Traditionalists believe that adding the “arts” to the education model for K-12 students will dilute the study of the main four pillars of STEM. Still, no one denies that getting kids excited about science at a very early age is a key to producing more STEM graduates.
Art is one element in early education that makes learning fun as they are introduced to simple STEAM activities. Linking art it to science not only provides an excellent balance to academic life, it can also encourage students to explore subjects they think are boring.
Allowing students to explore their creatively through art and combining it with science will surely produce more students interested in STEM overall, and not just in early grades. Proponents of STEAM say this is just one reason why the arts is a vital part.
Perhaps even more importantly is that supporters of STEAM believe creativity is an essential part of innovation and development within the scientific world. It doesn’t only attract young minds to love science, it empowers them to always think creatively and believe that anything is possible. The same is true of kids that code. Even if they do nothing relating in the field of technology, they gain so many additional benefits through the process of learning how to code.
Dave Monaco has worked in education for 24 years and counting. He has put his M.A.T. to great use as the Head of School at Parish Episcopal School and helps Parish live out their mission to guide young people to become creative learners and bold leaders who will impact our global society. With his philosophy to “engage the mind, connect to the heart,” this father of three will continue bringing order to chaos one day at a time.