Should my school teach S.T.E.M or S.T.E.A.M.?

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Science and technology is all around us.  It does not matter if we talking about coronavirus vaccine research or developing a website like Intertops mobile casino.  They both involve science and technology.  

Education School Boards have been talking about the S.T.E.M curriculum.  Schools must have S.T.E.M.  Kids need S.T.E.M. knowledge to succeed in life.  But what is S.T.E.M. and is it really what kids need?

What is S.T.E.M. education?

S.T.E.M stands for science, technology, engineering, and math.  Those are the skills of the future.  What if a student just learns these skills?  Will they be successful?

What is S.T.E.A.M. education?

S.T.E.A.M. education is science, technology , engineering, art, and math. 

What is the difference between S.T.E.M. education and S.T.E.A.M. education?

STEAM includes art.  This may seem unimportant when everybody talks about things being online and everything being high tech, but those crayons, paints, and clay … they are very important for a child’s success.

Who started the STEAM movement and when did it begin?

The STEAM educational movement began in 2012.  Adam Savage and Adam Savage from the famous TV show Mythbusters are strong proponents of STEAM over STEM.  They both believe that art (creativity education) is critical in the success in the area of science, technology, and engineering.  

“Savage said STEM, the acronym for science, technology, engineering and math, should be STEAM “because you need art in there to complete an education.””

“Scientists are just storytellers using a methodology that is incredibly rigorous,” Savage said. “The best science is an offshoot of a story, finding something you want to know more about and having an opinion in the encounter. The storytelling is in how you break things down into bite-sized steps and come up with a solution.”

Why is art (or creativity) the key to success in science, technology, and engineering?

Creativity is the ability to think outside the box.  If somebody is only taught science, technology, and engineering, they just learn the technical side of things.  Memorize these math problems and plug them in when try to solve these problems.  Do you ever look at the way that the Chinese teach their kids math?  They excel in this area.  But it is all rote.

When you give that person a problem that is not like the example they were given, they are lost.

Art, Music, Creative Writing, drama… all of those areas, touch on a different side of your brain than the 1 + 1 = 2 side of your brain.  It is the part of your brain that sees a problem that does not have a solution, and you try to come up with a solution.

The ironic part is that in the US, our educators were trying to change the US school system to be more like China’s while at the same time, China was trying to get their children to learn more like they do in the US.

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When did people start debating STEM education vs. STEAM education and why?

This big debate began with PARCC exams and the requirement that all children do these standardized tests every year.  Since PARCC focused on math and English, schools then focused on math and English at the expense of art, music, drama, and other creative programs.  Even creative writing was taken out of the curriculum and replaced with descriptive essays, opinion essays, and other stuff like that.

And unfortunately, the poorest school districts ended up being hit the hardest.  It is sad, but ironic.  These PARCC tests were designed to try to “level the playing field”.  To give lower income children a chance by holding their schools up to higher standards in the basics of English and Math.  Although English and Math are very important, the creativity side of education was lost.

The creativity side is what helps to create our next Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Singer, or even a solid competitor to Google.  Art/creativity education can also help with self-confidence, standing up for one’s ideas, learning to accept constructive criticism, social skills … even if somebody does not become an inventor, they are still solid life skills.  Are you trying to start your own business?  There is a lot of creativity involved in that, even if your company is a tech company.

Art helps with stress

A lot of people went stir crazy with the lockdowns.  But people who were used to having hobbies and expressing themselves in creative ways, probably had a much better time dealing with the whole situation emotionally than those that did not.  

It did not matter if the creativity was in drawing, painting, clay, gardening, music, creative writing, or hobbies like train layouts, crocheting, sewing, knitting, woodworking.  Hobbies and creativity provided people with something to do during lockdowns while at the same time providing a release for emotions.

That is why I thought it was idiotic that governors were making it illegal for stores like Walmart and Target to sell creative supplies, because they were essential.  They were essential for helping to keep the emotional sanity of the people  during lockdowns.  But we have lost that in our modern society.

But I am digressing.

Summary

If you are a school district that is trying to decide between creating a STEM curriculum or a STEAM curriculum, definitely choose STEAM.  Those crayons, clay, markers, paints, blank books may not seem like much, but they are very important for the success of your students no matter what career they choose and what way they choose to express their creativity.

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About Annabel Johnson

Part time gamer, reviewer and blogger. Full time geek and tech expert!

View all posts by Annabel Johnson

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