Understanding STEM Education’s Scions, Offshoots and Nodes
Deviation and Evolution Perspectives of a Broader, Popular Movement
STEM as an acronym has a long, complex history that can make it difficult to reach consensus on exactly what this important educational movement is all about, but there are some basic features that many can agree on. The Congressional Research Service provides a solid definition:
“The term ‘STEM education’ refers to teaching and learning in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. It typically includes educational activities across all grade levels — from preschool to post-doctorate — in both formal (e.g., classrooms) and informal (e.g., afterschool programs) settings.”
This sounds straightforward enough, but over the years there has been plenty of disagreement about where STEM comes from and where it’s going. I’ve already explored some of the “lost history” of the movement, but understanding the past is only part of the story. It’s also important to take a look at the current state of STEM to get a sense of where the future may lead.
STEM Versus STEAM: A Closer Look
One of the biggest points of confusion swirls around the alphabet soup of acronyms in STEM education. For example, take the two most common terms: STEM and STEAM.
STEM focuses on providing robust science, technology, engineering and math education. It’s been gaining momentum for more than two decades, and many schools have embraced the principles of encouraging scientific inquiry to solve real-world problems.
STEAM is a growing offshoot of the STEM movement that adds art into the mix. The idea is that artistic thinking is part of a well-rounded education and that encouraging creativity can also enhance engineering and technological designs. For example, a well-designed app will function to solve a problem with technology, but its stylistic composition enhances its functionality for the user. STEAM proponents also point out that the arts can…