- STEM education differs from STEAM in that it doesn’t specifically include art when learning. However, there is still creativity involved.
- STEM and STEAM have the same core principle; to teach children using hands-on methods to foster a love for learning while developing them to their fullest potential for a successful future.
- The best choice for your child depends on what inspires them to learn, is it art based or not? If they love the arts, STEAM can be the greatest way to foster a love for learning and innovation.
You’ve probably heard of STEM and STEAM-based learning and now you’re wondering what makes STEAM different and is it better or not.
I’m going to tell you all you need to know about STEM vs STEAM to better help you determine what is best for your child’s needs.
Plot twist, even though STEM is a bit different than STEAM, your child will love learning either way as it’s hands-on and allows them to explore and discover constantly.
STEAM and STEM will prepare them for the brightest future that is full of great opportunities for their future.
Click on the highlighted word below to “jump” to a section.
1. What is STEM
The core principles of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math are combined into each learning activity. This allows teachers to better connect with, motivate, and engage students in ways that reflect real-life scenarios, helping them succeed in such a competitive world.
Instead of forcing a child to sit for 6 hours a day silently to memorize and pass tests, children are learning lifelong lessons.
They learn how to:
- Properly communicate: learn how to efficiently communicate problems and solutions effectively
- Develop empathy: Understand social cues, body language, and how to respond appropriately
- Critically think and apply this skill to all different scenarios
- Be a leader and participate as a team member
- Learn from failure and mistakes to be successful
STEM, even without the “A” boosts creativity. This is because it encourages children to think of their own solution to problems. Sometimes those solutions are outside the box techniques too.
STEM embraces the four C’s: Creativity, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, and Communication.
One important thing to realize is the earlier the children have been introduced to STEM-based learning, the more likely they’ll develop the passion to take education seriously and enjoy learning along the way.
If they don’t have the core foundation for STEM in their elementary years, they’re more likely to become very frustrated and overwhelmed. They’ll lose interest very fast.
One way to get your child interested in STEM is to find their passion and help them develop them through hands-on play. Your child’s passion may change every other month, but that’s okay, they’re discovering what they like and don’t like.
They’ll learn so much and retain information on things that they love. Allowing your children to question and explore is another way to encourage a love and appreciation for STEM.
To support their new found passion, provide an environment that is a balance between your child’s IQ, EQ, and PQ.
PQ (Physiological Quotient): Your child won’t learn if they’re hungry or tired.
EQ (Emotional Quotient): If your child is emotionally deprived, they can’t learn well.
IQ only blooms when PQ and EQ are supported.
If you’re still not sure about STEM, it’s a great way to bond with your little one by teaching and playing with them. Teaching them how science adds so much quality to our lives will influence positive feelings.
To the contrary, if you’re a busy parent like me and can’t always join them, STEM is also great for independent learning.
Plus, even though STEM includes technology, it doesn’t mean children are stuck in front of a screen all day. I go into more detail about decreasing screen time with my daughter who once couldn’t live without it here.
Basically, STEM has the best of both worlds in every way imaginable!
2. What is STEAM
STEAM or Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Mathematics was born to include creativity, not necessarily, “art”. The ‘A’ in STEAM includes all of the humanities, including ethics and societal impact.
This holistic approach allows students to exercise both sides of their brain at the same time without overloading them.
A common misconception is that the ‘A’ will dilute the science focus, but educators are learning that it supports it.
The right and left brain hemisphere argument are pretty much debunked. Although each side has it’s strengths, a whole system approach for creativity has been determined by Ned Herrman, an educator who spent two decades developing models of brain activity and relationship to the creative process.
Arts provide a practical function during predominantly technology and engineer based activities. Let’s say they’re involved in industrial design or app design for example.
They are using sketches, diagrams, and mathematical relationships in models to communicate at a high level their concept to solve the problem at hand.
Another aspect of arts that aids in communication is performing arts like drama and speech. Technical or persuasive writing fit into the communication development in STEM.
Including the arts removes idea inhibition, meaning there are no wrong answers. It also helps hone spatial awareness and mathematical concepts like geometry.
Your child will gain confidence in their ability to learn and retain information, to fix, to explore, and to have fun in a team environment as a leader and teammate.
It’s important to remember that including arts into a STEM-based activity should be able to happen naturally for that specific activity.
This isn’t something that should be forced otherwise children will have a harder time learning and developing each skill properly.
Not only that but, STEAM-based education isn’t a requirement in the public school system, so this is something that should be encouraged at home through different activities that include STEM educational toys. Two examples are; Stack by Numbers for school-aged children or Lock & Learn for toddlers.
3. STEM vs STEAM
STEM supporters argue that there should be a separation between arts and sciences to prevent the core focus of science, technology, engineering, and math. I believe this is fear based since the USA is already so behind in these categories of learning in school.
What’s so great about art?
According to Ruth Catchen, an artist/educator who has developed a pilot STEAM program in Colorado says it can serve as an on-ramp to STEM for underrepresented students. Engaging students’ strengths using art activities increases motivation and the probability of STEM success.
Art provides diverse opportunities for us to communicate and express ourselves in our own way without going too far into the “art world” as including the rest of STEM, it balances this.
It can be a little confusing on what activities would be considered STEM or STEAM. Below are two super fun examples that show how different each activity is.
What’s a STEAM activity example:
Math art. It sounds like it would never go together, but you’re in for a surprise! This is SO much fun.
Making a colorful salt pendulum is one really fun activity to do at home. Plus, these don’t require much prep and is a budget-friendly idea.
Pro-tip: If you want to preserve it do it with a sauce bottle filled with diluted paint! You could even do the salt on top for added effects.
This activity would be good for school-aged children 6+.
What’s a STEM activity example:
A budget-friendly way to teach your kiddos how the water cycle works. It’s so much fun to see the changes day after day. This is perfect for children ages 3-7.
Who’s right in the STEM vs STEAM argument?
Well, there’s no right or wrong answer. Each has its own strengths and zero cons.
Both include the same goal to foster development by including a combination approach. They’re not teaching children science, math, art, or technology through a memorization method to past tests. Your child is being taught how to develop good learning and application methods while exploring possible passions.
The way they learn is very important. STEM focuses on curiosity while applying skills to real-world situations and fostering development to its core belief of hands-on education.
STEAM focuses on the same and adds an art-based approach for further creative and humanities development. It provides an understanding of how to communicate with an art-based method.
Why does everyone say or use STEM over STEAM?
STEM is more commonly known because of the STEM movement in government, business, and education. Since there is continuing growth and need for STEM jobs, it is a common term used over STEAM.
Plus, STEAM is a little bit “newer” to mainstream educators even though it’s not a new concept.
STEAM is gaining traction in the public eye. According to Steam Power After School’s site, “House Resolution 319, introduced by Representative Jim Langevin (D-RI), and still in play, “expresses the sense of the House of Representatives that adding art and design into federal programs that target Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields, encourages innovation and economic growth in the United States.”
4. What’s Best for My Child?
If you’re new to this idea, here are 3 secrets about STEM you must know to fully understand how important this is for your child’s future.
Today’s kids need to have a particular set of skills to solve tomorrows problems. So, how do we determine what is the best route to learning?
While we can put our learning styles into a couple of categories, everyone is a bit different and that will take some time as our children are still developing.
So, it’s totally okay to try different methods every 4-6 months to see what your child prefers, how much growth is developed, and how fast they are able to learn through each method introduced.
According to the Ann Arbor Public Schools Educational Foundation, “The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates that jobs in science, technology, and math will grow 17% by 2018, nearly double the growth of non-STEM fields. By 2018, the U.S. will have more than 1.2 million unfilled STEM jobs.”
Even for students who don’t choose a career in one of the STEM or STEAM fields, the skills students gain from a STEAM education can be translated into almost any career.
I think a combination approach of STEM and STEAM works best to stimulate our brain to create new and improved pathways. Neuronal pathways are constantly forming and changing as we force our brain to learn something new.
This is one way to stay “sharp”. By strengthing your child’s brain continually, the way they process information and apply it to everyday scenarios they face, it will become second nature to ask the right questions and experiment efficiently to solve problems they face daily.
By combining arts into some activities, it will solidify these pathways while strengthing them and encourage creativity and innovative development. This is one of the best ways to improve our world and our children’s future.
What are your thoughts on arts being included in STEM learning? Comment below and let’s get this conversation started.