The concept of STEAM education has emerged from what was previously known as STEM education. The acronym itself stands for science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics. These subjects have been grouped together to emphasize their importance for the global workforce, to boost student engagement, to highlight the transferable skills they teach, and to encourage integration.
Read on to learn more about STEAM education, what it is, how it works within the classroom, and the importance of each of the individual components that make up the acronym, or visit our education solutions page for further insights into the modern classroom.
STEAM education is the name given to an education model that focuses on science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics. The STEAM initiative itself was originally developed by Georgette Yakman and emerged from the previous STEM model, which broadly covers the same topics but excludes the arts from its definition.
Yakman, and others, have argued that STEAM allows the traditional subjects contained within the acronym to be structured in such a way that a greater amount of integration between them is possible. As the STEAM Education website states, the concept centers around the idea that “Science and Technology are interpreted through Engineering and the (social, language, physical, musical and fine) Arts, all based in elements of Mathematics.”
Ultimately, the STEAM framework allows for an academic curriculum to be designed in such a way that it will equip learners with rounded skills, which they can take out into the world after their time at school is over. It also allows individual teachers to design their lessons in such a way that students develop these skills collectively, through integrated lessons, rather than individually through the specific subjects alone.
The Importance of STEAM Education
The chosen subjects for both STEM and STEAM were emphasized because of their perceived importance to the global workforce, along with a more general desire to increase levels of student engagement. It was also hoped that it would allow those in education programs to see that many of their favorite hobbies and interests are also grounded in these same five concepts, as opposed to seeing the STEAM fields as purely academic topics.
STEAM initiatives are intended to prepare students for future work roles and enable them to develop the creativity, innovation, leadership, and critical thinking skills that will serve them well in the future. STEAM education also stresses the fact that these subjects are all integrated within many real-world settings.
One quick and effective way to think about how STEAM subjects combine together is to think of a virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR) dressing room, which allows people to try on clothes in a digital environment. While the virtual or augmented reality dressing room itself will need to use relevant technology and will need to be programmed or engineered, creative people will also be required to design the clothes in the first place.
STEAM Education vs. STEM Education
As stated, the STEAM education initiative has grown out of the previously existing concept of STEM education. The difference between the two ideas can be summarized as the added presence of the letter ‘A’ for the arts; in reality, this is quite a significant difference and not one that should be under-estimated in terms of its importance.
After all, ‘the arts’ in this context refers to not only visual or aesthetic arts but also social studies, language arts, fine arts, musical arts, and physical arts – and all of the subjects that fall within those sub-categories.
Ultimately, it is felt that this combination of science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics – taught in an integrated way – will help learners think creatively, use logic, become accustomed to problem-solving, and benefit from experiential learning and working collaboratively with one another.
Breaking Down STEAM
To fully understand STEAM education, it is useful to look at each of the components individually and evaluate why they are so important. Once you have done this, it also becomes easier to get to grips with how they integrate and why they have been grouped together to assist with the creation of education programs.
Keep reading to find out more about science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics, and how the different subjects within these wider groups contribute to a rounded education.
The Benefits of Science
Science and the subjects contained within this umbrella term, such as chemistry, physics, and biology, are extremely important for educational development because we are all surrounded by scientific concepts every day, while scientific evidence is used to make important decisions in a huge range of fields.
It is crucial for students to learn the scientific method because it teaches them to solve problems and make decisions based on evidence and logical thought patterns. This can be especially important for logical learners, but the core skills involved in the scientific method are useful for students with all learning styles or preferences.
Aside from learning how to think scientifically, it is also useful for students to gain an understanding of how science links with the other STEAM components. While technology and engineering are both hugely reliant on scientific knowledge and discovery, the process of hypothesizing, testing, and drawing conclusions from the evidence are applicable elsewhere.
The Benefits of Technology
Technology-related skills are increasingly in demand too. Information Technology (IT), for example, is a fundamental part of almost any organization you can think of, and even education itself is becoming increasingly reliant on the use of various EdTech solutions either in the classroom, or to facilitate remote learning.
Technology also links very clearly with the other STEAM fields. For example, the strong links between science and technology can be clearly seen in fields like data science and cybersecurity. A growing number of technology-based careers require the kind of creative thinking taught in the arts, while others will require numeracy skills.
It is crucial that students learn to utilize technology at a young age and continue to use technology throughout their education. On top of this, it is equally vital that teachers develop an appreciation for the use of technology and a firm understanding of how much it can positively influence learning outcomes and student engagement.
The Benefits of Engineering
Engineering can be broadly described as the application of scientific principles in order to create objects, machines, structures, products, and more. It is most commonly divided into four main fields: civil engineering (buildings, bridges, infrastructure, etc.), electrical engineering (electronic devices, electrical circuits, control systems, etc.), mechanical engineering (robotics, vehicles, engines, etc.), and chemical engineering (chemical manufacturing, oil refinery, etc.) However, aerospace engineering is sometimes included as a distinct fifth branch.
In truth, the importance of teaching engineering concepts and principles within academic institutions cannot be overstated because the world needs engineers of all kinds to create the objects and infrastructure we rely on.
In addition to engineering being dependent on scientific principles, there is a major cross-over with mathematics and especially geometry. However, engineering also links with the other STEAM fields in various ways. The arts, for example, are based on creativity, and there is a very clear artistic element to designing and engineering a bridge or a building. Similarly, the actual engineering process relies on technology, including computers and other machines.
The Benefits of Arts
The arts is an extremely broad field that encompasses a wide range of subjects, many of which have not traditionally been viewed as particularly “academic”. In her overview of STEAM education, Georgette Yakman breaks the arts down into the sub-categories of fine arts, language arts, physical arts, manual arts, and liberal arts.
Prior to the concept of STEAM, many of these subjects were not considered critical to the end goal of developing students into highly skilled citizens, with abilities and qualifications that are in demand in the workforce. However, this view has since changed. The language arts, for instance, have cross-over with every other STEAM field because they focus on effective communication, while liberal arts are also considered important academic subjects.
Historically, fine arts and physical arts have struggled to be viewed as important vocational subjects, but this view has also changed. Today, there is a greater appreciation for the importance of developing creative and expressive skills. Clearly, there are many potential career options for people with drawing, painting, and performing skills.
The Benefits of Mathematics
Finally, the last piece of the STEAM puzzle is mathematics and, in many ways, it also helps to bind the other elements together. After all, mathematics is needed to solve problems in fields like science, technology, and engineering, while it can also provide the necessary structure to the arts. Of course, numeracy is also an essential life skill more generally.
One of the challenges with mathematics as an academic subject is that although it is widely seen as being a core part of the curriculum, many students find it difficult to enjoy. Therefore, many STEAM education initiatives aim to boost engagement in this area and encourage more students to continue to study the subject at a college or university level.
A major benefit that mathematics offers over many subjects is its universal nature, regardless of language, which opens up career possibilities all over the world. Within the workforce, advanced mathematics skills are in high demand in a range of fields, from scientific research and data analysis roles, through to engineering and medicine.
How to Use STEAM Education in the Classroom
When it comes to answering the question of how STEAM education can be introduced into the classroom, it is first important to stress that every teacher can be a STEAM teacher; it is not the sole responsibility of teachers of the individual subjects in question. This is because integration is at the very heart of the entire STEAM concept.
It can also be a good idea to devise specific STEAM projects, where students are required to use a range of different STEAM skills at once. Examples of this may include small-scale collaborative building projects or finding ways to include artistic or creative components in lessons that would not usually be related to the arts.
Additionally, it is also important that teachers try to make lessons that focus on science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics as interesting and engaging as possible. This will then help with the goal of getting more students to pursue these subjects later in their education, with the hopes that they end up working in STEAM fields.
STEAM education is intended to encourage student engagement in the areas of science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics. The subjects within these categories are considered important for developing key life skills, while qualifications in these areas are also in demand by employers.
For teachers, a major part of STEAM initiatives is integration and the idea that the different STEAM components can combine together in a variety of interesting ways. This can then encourage more students to study STEAM fields further into their education, with the hope that this will then improve their long-term prospects.
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