Meghan Brown for MASD
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STEM vs STEAM and why it is important

One of the hype words in education is STEM. STEM is an educational philosophy based on the idea that innovation in the world is built on the coupling of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. The idea behind STEM is that children will graduate needing a strong understanding in the fields of math and science. In addition, they need to be able to apply critical thinking and problem solving plus entrepreneurship, communications and collaboration. In STEM education systems, the education is real world based and the teaching methods are student centered and more independent. In addition, teamwork and communication are stressed. For example, in MASD we use Everyday Math in our elementary levels and Everyday Math helps students learn how to apply the math they are learning to everyday activities like shopping, cooking, taking measurements, etc…. I completely agree that STEM is the way education needs to head and fortunately, I think Mechanicsburg is already heading in that direction. We have an amazing technology program through all education levels. Children in 1st grade are already learning how to use technology and without even realizing it are learning the basics of how to communicate with each other and present their ideas using different avenues of technology. By high school, these children will be completely comfortable not only communicating through technology but also using it to enhance their education. Some of our elementary schools already have the use of 3-D printers to help enhance learning and by middle school all students will know how to use this technology. Our middle school students are not only developing new ‘inventions’ but they present these inventions using IMovie. 

I personally think that though STEM must be the basis of all education models, schools should instead be focusing on STEAM which also applies the Arts. Think about it, all forms of technology, science and math involve creative thinking so the Arts naturally lend themselves to a STEM based education system. The focus on both systems is not having each element taught on its own but together collectively. Truly prepared thinkers need to think not just about the math of an element or the science or the technology but they need to think about how all of those areas work together.

STEAM is the wave of the future. In 2013, the Congressional STEAM Caucus was established with the goal of changing “the vocabulary of education to recognize the benefits of both the arts and sciences and how these intersections will benefit our country’s future generations” (Congressional STEAM Caucus). In addition, in 2015 the Every Child Succeeds Act went into effect which stresses the fact that the Arts are part of a well rounded student. STEAM in no way takes away from the legitimacy of STEM, it just helps to build on it and build more well rounded citizens. It is advancing the thinking of STEM. According to the STEM to STEAM initiative, there are currently 2053 schools in the US that are focusing on a STEAM based education. Most of these schools started their focus on a STEM based education and have since transitioned to a STEAM based approach. The A in STEAM is not meant to be a stand alone discipline just as math, science, engineering, and technology are not meant to be stand alone. It is a discipline that can easily be aligned with the other disciplines of the STEM based system and that works well in a collaborative setting. In addition, children that have exposure to all forms of art whether it be musical, visual, or literary tend to perform better in school, have better attendance rates, are more likely to be recognized for academic achievement (STEAM, not just STEM Education Infographics)

As a member of the MASD School Board, I will push to encourage an educational program that is built on STEAM. I want to ensure that our children graduate as critical thinkers that are ready to take on the future. Obviously, this means having a strong understanding of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics but it also means having the communication skills to promote their knowledge base, the creative thinking required to come up with new ideas, and the basic understanding of how this all fits into our current culture. For the school board, this means encouraging our classrooms to stay ahead of the game in terms of technology, making sure students are challenged to think outside the box in all disciplines of education, ensuring that our education program is one in which all subject works collaboratively, and ensuring that our art based educators are a an essential part of the teaching community. I truly believe that having STEM evolve into STEAM is key to the future generation’s success and ability to compete in a global market.

Citations:

“Congressional Steam Caucus.” STEM to STEAM, Feb 2013. Web. 6 Jul 2017.


“STEAM, not just STEM Education Infographics.” Education Infographics, 5 Jan 2015. Web. 10     Jul 2017.

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