What is STEM Education?
STEM education is something everyone seems to be interested in these days. With more and more schools incorporating STEM into their curriculum and methods of teaching, most of us are left wondering what exactly this system entails and what it means beyond science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.
The world is advancing quickly and innovations are coming into the market all the time. New lucrative careers are emerging and it all seems to be linked to STEM. According to a survey by the education commission, STEM jobs are growing at a rate of 13% as compared to 9% for non-STEM related jobs. The average annual salary of STEAM jobs is $86,980 as compared to non-STEM jobs where the annual salary is $38,160, according to the Bureau of labor statistics. These jobs include mathematics, IT and engineering jobs that work with artists and science labs to make vaccines and new innovative technology such as computerized limbs for paralyzed patients.
We need a good education in STEM because science, engineering and technology are behind the entire infrastructure around us. Take the example of solar energy or hydroelectric power plants. With the old methods of producing electricity failing, the world is looking at other means. But solar panels only work by integrating various disciplines including science, engineering, mathematics and technology. If we continue to study these subjects separately and not learn the skills to integrate it, we will not be able to even produce electricity in the near future.
It is only through integrated teaching of subjects, which is the STEAM education approach that we can continue to advance in the world, make innovations and enjoy the comforts of life. The integrated approach teaches kids the skills and knowledge they need to work on real-life problems because in-depth knowledge of one subject alone is not enough.
If you are looking for more information on STEAM and STEM, then this article is for you. This comprehensive read includes information on what STEM is, its benefits and why schools should incorporate it. In the end, you will find a step by step guide for schools to integrate STEAM into schooling.
Spare a few minutes and read through this article for detailed information on STEM education!
What is STEM Education?
STEM is an educational practice that integrates the four subjects of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Rather than teaching these subjects separately, STEM education uses a comprehensive approach to integrate the concepts and teach using real-life examples and hands-on approach.
How STEM education differentiates from the traditional classroom is with blended learning where students are shown real-life examples of how they can apply the concepts and theoretical knowledge to real-world situations. This leads to the lesson being understood better and remembered for longer.
STEM is not only focused on the four disciples in its name, but the concept involves a different style of teaching as well. Students are encouraged to think creatively and solve problems on their own with guidance from teachers. Kids can use any approach they like to find answers and complete tasks. For the most part, students are in control of what they learn and how they do it. A role of a teacher is more of a facilitator and instructor while giving kids the freedom to learn how they prefer.
The History of how STEM Education was Created
The concept of STEM education began some two decades ago when some educators realized that as the world was progressing technologically, not as many students were taking up careers in the subjects of science, engineering or technology. By comparing test scores of students across the world, kids in America were ranking somewhere in the middle for mathematics and sciences.
That led to the conversation about STEM, and how teachers can improve kids’ understanding and present these subjects as more approachable and make it so that more people will be interested in it. Interestingly enough, the acronym was originally SMET, but since it doesn’t roll off the tongue as easily so it was changed to STEM in 2001!
Ever since the idea of STEM was introduced, there has been a constant struggle to get the teachers trained to provide quality education while holding to the core principles of STEM education. And to get more students involved.
In 2006, a graduate from Virginia polytechnic introduced the concept of integrating arts into STEM education and hence formed STEAM. He realized, along with any other educators, that arts were necessary for all-rounded education, to create socially aware and emotionally intelligent adults. Arts allows kids to express their creativity and understand concepts vividly especially for the younger kids.
What’s Next for STEAM Education?
Since STEM today is mostly only available to those that can afford it, the future of STEM is accessibility. Countries across the globe along with schools and organizations are making efforts to make STEM education available to all students irrespective of their geographical location or the amount of tuition they pay to schools.
There is also a gender difference when it comes to STEM education and careers. With men dominating most fields and it is not due to the lack of merit when it comes to women, rather women face a lot of bias when applying to such jobs.
So the future of STEAM is to make education and careers all-inclusive. By training teachers to be less focused on textbooks and more open to let students steer their education, we can make significant progress.
Benefits of STEAM Education.
The world is changing and technology is seen in everything we do. From mechanical doors to coffee machines, everything is automated. STEM education prepares the children of today to be thinkers of tomorrow. What I mean by that is our children will be able to understand the world better and work towards solving the issues if they have a solid understanding of the concepts which are essentially all incorporated in a STEAM curriculum. A well-rounded STEAM education benefits the kids in the following ways:
- Make students fluent in the language of technology: with STEAM education, kids can learn coding and robotics from a very young age. In the future, troubleshooting in issues relating to technology will be a piece of cake for them. More than that, the growing use of technology has changed some life aspects such as media and politics. Now more than ever spreading fake news is relatively easy. By teaching skills to navigate technology, you can prepare the youngsters to judge true from false and determine the ethical way to use technology. Most of the adults today did not grow up with technology like these kids are which is why they fall prey to the people who misuse technology. Teaching our youth the ins and outs of technology will make them technologically smart just like being street smart was the skill to have up until some ten years ago.
- Teach social intelligence: STEM education makes kids proficient in skills such as self-management, self-awareness and accepting diversity. The core principle of designing a STEM classroom is to make it culturally diverse and accept students of all backgrounds and ethnicities. While studying or doing group projects, teachers motivate kids to speak their mind and teach other kids to listen. That helps kids learn social etiquettes, discipline, cooperation with others and persistence.
- Teach leadership skills: STEM education encourages failure because that is the best way to learn. By allowing students to make mistakes and learn from it as young kids, it helps them be more open-minded as adults. Students learn leadership skills when they lead group projects or help someone in the class understand a concept. In a STEM classroom, kids are encouraged to work as one, lift the weaker kids and involve everyone. These are the qualities that make a great leader, suited to run a multinational organization or even a country!
Ellen Ochoa became the first Hispanic woman in space due to her excellent problem-solving skills and engineering knowledge. She was a creative thinker that worked well with people and it was due to her education in mathematics and engineering that she became an astronaut and later the director of NASA.
Skills students learn from STEAM education:
- Critical thinking: the way a STEAM education curriculum is designed is to encourage the kid to think deeply about what they see, hear and observe. To question everything creatively and think critically about is the way to make your mark in the world. Traditional curriculums had a different approach, where students had to learn whatever was presented in the books. But with STEAM education, your students can become critical thinkers and learn to form their own opinions.
- Problem-solving: since STEAM education is more centered on hands-on working and linking real-life situations to theoretical knowledge, students learn at a young age the art of solving problems. Students are motivated to ask questions because of the hands-on approach of teaching in a STEAM education system. That helps them see the issues from different perspectives and come up with various solutions.
- Collaboration: STEM education requires collaborative work. For students to do science experiments or build something using engineering and technology concepts, they need to work together. In a STEM classroom kids are put in groups from a young age and encouraged to share ideas and collaborate on projects. When they grow up this instinct of helping others and working together is deep-rooted and contributes to a productive workforce.
- Creativity: a STEM curriculum is designed to be flexible and stimulate creativity. If a math problem has to be solved, kids are allowed to explore it from all angles; they can ask questions and apply different formulas to solve it. The same goes for all other subjects as well. It not only promotes creativity in kids but also makes them efficient time utilizers.
How is STEAM Important
STEAM education is important for kids to function well in everyday lives. With the technologically modern world of today, kids need a solid understanding of the machines that are all around us. The jobs of tomorrow will be based on the subjects of science, engineering, mathematics and technology.
The reason why a father in the 1800s taught his son to hunt, or why a mother taught her daughter how to use an oven is the same reason why we need STEAM education for our kids today; survival. For people to succeed in any era, they need the skills according to the needs of their time. And the skills needed today for a secure future are the ones we can learn through STEAM education.
STEAM not only teaches the textbooks but gives kids the tools to modify concepts to fit real-life problems, STEM helps them be critical thinkers and emotionally intelligent. That is why STEAM is so important and the need of the hour.
An interest in technology and knowledge of coding led Herman Chinery to become the Bill Gates of Ghana. With only one computer and no money to invest, he was able to create a massive software company that has thousands of employees today. Due to his knowledge in STEM, he found jobs needed in the world of technology and made a name for himself.
The purpose of STEAM Education
The purpose of STEAM education is quite simple; to prepare the youth of today for the ever-changing future. To teach those skills and give them the resources so they can find their way in the job market of tomorrow.
Schools and STEAM Education
Why do Schools Need STEAM Education as a Part of the Curriculum?
A school is a place where young minds are given the tools to succeed in life. Schools need an inclusive STEAM program in their schools so they can better prepare kids for the future which is based on technology with new careers in mathematics, engineering and science.
Major worldwide organizations such as Amazon, Google and Intel are investing in STEAM because it is the future and the sooner we realize it the better our chances are of easily managing the shift towards technology.
Take the example of self-driven cars. If we spend time and money teaching young kids to drive as a profession, then we are preparing them for a lot of disappointment and joblessness. Of course, there will be drivers in the future, but that is not a growing field. So it is best schools realize the need of the hour and start preparing kids for fruitful careers in STEAM.
Schools need STEAM education because it is the best chance they can give kids for a successful future with careers in fields that are expected to grow.
How it Benefits Schools & Students
A state of the art STEAM education curriculum benefits schools. With increased enrollments and a greater number of students getting into colleges, schools with STEM education not only rank better on test scores and quality of education but also increase the profit margins.
Teachers qualified in STEAM education along with innovative coding and robotics classes increase the rapport of the school. Students benefit from a quality STEAM program as it stimulates creative thinking, critical analysis and collaborative skills in kids. Students learn to solve big problems using a hands-on approach and real-life examples.
How to Set up a STEAM Education Program in your School: A Step by Step Guide
While your school already teaches the subjects of science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics, it will not be called a STEAM education unless you integrate all these subjects. And use a student-centered approach to teach. This includes the practical application of concepts and a focus on real-life situations more than the textbooks.
These days due to the growing interest in STEAM, schools are stating STEAM programs without due diligence and failing to provide quality education. To help you out with creating a STEAM education curriculum for your school; we have compiled a list that you can check off and start your STEAM journey. This is based loosely on the Science Foundation Arizona’s STEM implementation guide that involves four stages; exploratory, introduction, partial immersion and full immersion:
- Check how you can integrate STEAM into your current curriculum.
- Train teachers to incorporate STEAM core values into teaching.
- Determine the goals that you want to achieve from a STEAM curriculum.
- Set up lessons according to the different learning stages.
- Determine the supplies you need and how you can get them.
EDVON has developed the progression based quality STEAM curriculum for schools, based on the world’s best STEM practices with teacher training modules.
Keep reading to learn more about how each of these aspects can help you start a STEAM education program in your school in a way that works:
- Look at the current curriculum and find lacking
Evaluate your current curriculum and determine how you can integrate STEAM principles into science, technology, engineering and mathematics classes. For an efficient transition to STEAM learning, it is best to find a way to integrate STEAM into your current system of education. You can do that by observing teachers’ approach towards different topics. Sit in on a 6th-grade science class and gauge the level of practical work kids are doing. If the teacher is already using real-life examples to explain how technology and mathematics work together, then there is not much you will have to change.
To integrate the 5 subjects, start with one project or topic of the curriculum and branch out from there. For example integrate the concepts of engineering, arts and technology to show kids how a space shuttle is built. Then science and mathematics lessons the astronauts and ground team go through to make sure the mission goes smoothly.
Just like that, take a coding class and integrate the five subjects to produce the final product. Apply all concepts learnt in class to real-life situations and encourage critical thinking, coming up with out of the box ideas and collaborative work.
- Train teachers as STEAM educators
Most STEM programs begin and end with one enthusiastic teacher. For your program to succeed, the teachers will have to be trained, so the program can continue for a long time. The teachers who have a lot of experience in teaching should be trained to incorporate real-life examples and practical learning into the curriculum. Your teachers can get certified from various institutions such as Fresno Pacific University or the national institute of STEM education. Various aspects of a quality STEAM program include:
- Challenge-based work: any time a concept is covered in class, a practical session should follow. If you have completed a divisions and fractions lesson for your 5th-grade class, then follow it up with a practical workshop where they can use fractions to number the candy beans in a packet, or the chairs in the classroom, number of cars in the parking lot outside. Teachers have the freedom to give any activity as long as it can challenge kids to think about how the theory applies to real life; this guarantees long term learning.
- Project-based learning: by giving kids projects in class or as homework, you can work on their creativity and art skills. Each kid has a unique mind. By encouraging the application of theory to real-life objects they can hold, you teach them skills of self-application of knowledge. This way they learn tools to do things on their own which will be helpful as adults.
- Collaboration: this means collaboration between students and between the subjects of STEAM. Most real-world problems require a solution that one subject alone cannot find. Man got to the moon by integrating a few subjects and that is what the kids of today can learn from a STEAM education curriculum. Ask carefully formulated questions from kids at random times and encourage collaborative work to find answers, this will teach them to think on their feet and include others in the process.
To maximize learning in a STEAM education system, teachers can create new and hands-on activities to practice the lessons learnt in class.
- Identify your goals and budget accordingly
Jot down what you plan on achieving with a STEAM education curriculum and then decide on the equipment you need and the resources required. Calculate your budget accordingly. Plan ahead when it comes to finances to assure a steady continuation in the technology, coding and robotics classes.
For most schools, technology is already very much integrated into the science, mathematics, engineering and art classes. So to start separate coding and robotics lessons, they can register with online platforms such as EDVON, open learning from MIT educators and future learning.
- Provide age-appropriate lessons
For younger grades, the level of mathematics and technology understanding is different from the older students. Some people argue that kids in primary school or kindergarten are too young for STEAM education, but that is simply not true anymore.
STEAM education is appropriate for all ages as long as the core values are followed; this includes hands-on learning, challenging project-based work and integrating of the subjects. Give lessons and challenges according to the level of education and the age of the classroom kids. For a first-grader, putting some electrodes in a potato and lighting the bulb is a challenging task and a great example of how science and technology are integrated.
Start small with one or two activities using the materials already present; this way you can fail and start again easily without losing motivation. It also gives you a better understanding of the activities suitable for different age groups and the materials you will need in the future.
- Gather the materials
For STEAM education, you will need some materials and equipment that the students can use to apply concepts. Start with the materials already present in your classrooms such as craft paper and building blocks, or plants and magnets. The way you will know what materials you need is through visits to other schools and seeing first-hand how successful STEAM programs run and the materials they have. Some common must-haves for STEAM classes include:
- Construction: building blocks, Legos, wood pieces, magnets etc.
- Equipment: microscope, craft scissors, tables, idea board.
- Technology: robotics pieces, coding equipment, wires, computers, tablets.
A 3D printer is very suitable as it gives you the freedom to make your supplies such as wires and models of buildings. Kids can integrate technology and use of computers to design the structures and then 3D print it.
The bottom Line
There is no one go-to method of implementing STEAM into your system, every school has its requirements and thus the STEAM education curriculum should be tailored for every school. Your STEM program will succeed in the long term if you stick to the core values and make it inclusive for all genders. STEM is an excellent model of education that is based on very useful and beneficial principles that will help our next generation find their place in life.
If you want to start a STEAM education program in your school then follow the tips provided in this article. The points mentioned here have been taken from a thorough research of the models already in place and working well. EDVON facilitates schools to introduce STEAM curriculum in K12, if you are interested then contact us to make your school STEAM certified.
Leave us a comment to tell us what tips worked best for you and what more can a school do to incorporate STEAM education into their system.o Inf