STEM and STEAM Learning: What Do They Mean and Why Are They Important?
You’ve probably heard of STEM or STEAM learning at least a time or two, but why are these subjects important enough to be considered essential to our society’s future by the United States Department of Education? And what do these two terms mean, exactly? We will explain the two learning styles in detail below, as well as look into why they’re so important for our kids today.
STEM Learning: What is it?
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. The teaching of this subject attempts to combine these four topics into single lesson plans, activity, and experiments.
Its main goal is to get kids interested in these areas of learning from a young age. STEM activities are commonly found in Preschool through High School classrooms, so children as young as 3 or 4 can be introduced to these difficult topics before they even learn to read or write, and older kids can dive into the lessons on a much deeper level.
Another important factor of STEM is that it always relates to the real world, so students can start seeing how their education relates to life from the very beginning of their classroom experience.
STEAM Learning: What is it?
STEAM learning is STEM with a twist; the “A” that’s added to the acronym stands for “Arts.”
STEAM not only teaches that art is an essential subject and skill, but also that creativity is required to solve engineering and technology challenges in our world today.
One of the best ways to understand STEAM learning and its mission, as shared by the University of Calgary, is to investigate Michaelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. These men were known as both artists and inventors, and their creative sides were key to their engineering successes. “These men saw no boundaries between arts and sciences,” and STEAM learning aims to do the same.
Benefits of STEM and STEAM Learning
Of course, STEM and STEAM learning sound like great concepts from the second you understand them, but why are they essential in today’s education system?
Three main reasons why these ways of teaching are so important are explained below:
STEM learning, and especially STEAM learning, requires kids to be creative. There are no worksheets or multiple-choice questions to answer in STEM and STEAM. They make kids think, and not just in the ways they are taught in school. These activities require students to come up with their own solutions, to be creative, to problem solve, and to come up with a solution from within their own mind. They must create and innovate their own way to success.
This allows kids to find solutions to their own challenges in the future, a life skill that every human needs.
Because these activities require kids to create their own solutions, STEM and STEAM learning encourages them to also try new things. No two projects will have the same solution, and oftentimes, experimentation and risk-taking are needed to get to the end result.
This also means that students will have new experiences with every project. They will need to adapt to new challenges, just as they will have to adapt in real life when they enter our quickly developing workforce. A child turning into an adaptive worker and learner is one of the best gifts an educator (or parent) can give in relation to future job success.
STEM and STEAM learning also relate to the real world. Projects are based around building bridges that hold weight or unconventional boats that float, not memorizing equations or finding abstract answers.
Why is this important? Kids want to learn to better their future. They want to know that what they do in the classroom (or at home) is benefitting them in a tangible way. With STEM and STEAM projects, the ties are always clear.
Real-world learning not only means kids are more interested in the projects themselves, it means they are taking in skills that they will use in their futures as engineers, teachers, moms, dads, and anything else they choose to become. The skills are real and the skills matter for much more than just a report card.
STEM and STEAM learning are quite simple; they teach science, technology, engineering, (arts), and math in a hands-on, innovative style. They teach problem solving and creativity, encourage new things, and prepare kids for the adulthoods they will too soon be living in. Most importantly, they are subjects that every kid deserves to dive into.