Education is full of lots of acronyms, and one of the most buzzed about abbreviations being used in the last few years is STEAM. That’s not a typo! Most everyone is familiar with STEM by now, but STEAM is…uh…catching steam. What do all these letters mean and what what is the difference between STEM and STEAM? Let’s find out.
What Is the Difference Between STEM and STEAM?
STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering, and math. STEAM describes a learning system that adds the arts to STEM instruction. The arts encompass humanities, language arts, dance, drama, music, visual arts, design, and media.
STEAM is not a new concept, but creative arts were pushed to the bottom of the curriculum pile for decades while STEM prevailed. The pendulum has swung and learning institutions are once again acknowledging and incorporating the need for creative thinking skills. STEAM does not abandon the scientific concepts that are the core of STEM programs. Rather, it adds to it by encouraging collaboration, creative problem solving, and a variety of ways to present learning. People like Leonardo da Vinci incorporated math with art to create masterpieces. Why not encourage our developing learners to make similar discoveries?
Why Is STEAM Important?
Last year I talked about the importance of STEAM in the classroom. There are two prevailing arguments for bringing the arts back to instruction. The first is that it fosters creative problem-solving skills in learners. With the quickly evolving world of technology that we live in today, our students are preparing for jobs that might not even exist yet. It is critical that they be able to “think outside the box” and solve problems creatively. Experiences with the arts help them develop these skills and abilities.
The second argument in favor of STEAM education is that students become more engaged in the learning process this way. When arts are woven into other subjects, studies have shown that students are more involved with their learning and better retain the information. Uninteresting topics become more engaging when they are taught using creative methods like art or music.
STEAM in the “Real World”
When we take a moment to look at the ways that art is used every day we can see the importance of STEAM. Careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math rely often on creative abilities to solve problems.
One example comes from nanotechnologists in the biomedical industry. Collaboration with artists has allowed them to develop jewelry which will assist diabetics to administer their insulin. “The technology allows for pain-free delivery of insulin to the body, replacing syringes. Philosophically the technologies question how we might ‘enable’ our favorite possessions with functionality above and beyond the aesthetic.”
There are many other examples of how the arts are part of multiple career fields. Engineers, for example, need both a strong understanding of math and physics concepts as well as an ability to envision and create new designs. The arts are integral to our lives, and it is extremely important that we integrate art with other lessons. Art should not be a separate topic or an afterthought. Art should be incorporated into learning across the curriculum.
Supplies for STEAM Activities
Darice recognizes the importance of STEAM activities in the classroom and is eager to help educators. The Darice STEAM Catalog includes 6 lesson activities for teachers, along with a supply list. Supplies are grouped by category, making it easy for educators to find exactly the supplies they are looking for. The 100-page catalog lists some of the 40,000 plus items that Darice has available. As you begin to budget for the next school year, check out the vast assortment of supplies and the freight included shipping program that Darice offers.
Find Out More
One of the biggest hurdles to incorporating STEAM activities in the classroom is the school budget. I shared tips for how to budget for STEAM in the classroom to help you make the most of your resources. Learn how to access grants, low cost and free resources that you can use in your classroom and school.
For lesson planning help and activity guides, check out my list of the top ten STEAM focused blogs for teachers. There are many wonderful sites for educators and parents to turn to for ideas and lesson guides. Educators with years of experience successfully implementing STEAM activities in their classroom share their advice with you for free.
Has your school made the shift to STEAM centered learning yet? If not, we hope that this article explaining the much asked question of “What is the difference between STEM and STEAM” gives you the information and motivation needed to help make the change.
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Morena from MorenasCorner.com is the kind of girl who would rather have paint on her fingers than get a manicure. Morena’s passion is using thrifted and inexpensive finds to craft designer inspired creations, and she enjoys creating colorful, bold pieces of home decor. The Italian-American daughter of two DIYers, she and her husband strive to pass the tradition and value of handmade to their four children.