STEM vs. STEAM, One and the Same?

According to the US Department of Education, approximately 16 percent of high school students in the US are interested in STEM careers and have the necessary knowledge to be successful in a growing and changing global workforce. Yet, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in STEM are the fastest growing sector worldwide, with too many positions and not enough skilled adults to fill them. That has forced a whole new paradigm in teaching, one that is focused on instructing children in a way that will help them compete and be successful in future STEM-oriented careers.

STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Although these subjects have always been included in the traditional curriculum, the way they are approached in the classroom is being overhauled to be more relevant to an ever-changing and technologically fast-paced world.

The Difference Between STEM and STEAM

A growing debate in the newly proposed STEM-based initiative is where arts and language arts fit into the curriculum. It's taken for granted that children need to learn the basics of language arts before they can even form conceptual or abstract thoughts. Language arts are the foundation for understanding and communication, without which STEM education could not exist. 

Given this fact, it's important to note that language arts education is not being taken out of the educational equation. It is, quite likely, at the forefront of it. Although STEM education is focused on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, the real difference between a STEM approach and traditional education is the integration of subjects. Rather than being taught independently from on another, subjects are taught in an integrated manner, on a continuum. 

STEM Education

STEM education is a different approach from providing children instruction that revolves around nothing but formulas and theories. Kids are engaged in real-life experimentation and manipulation. Often employing various technological tools and aids, STEM instruction enhances a child's overall ability to understand higher level technological curriculum. A STEM approach typically offers instruction in advanced subjects like robotics and computer programming. This new approach is still grounded in the basic subjects that all children must learn. They are just introduced in a more coherent and integrative way. 

Although highly important to the middle and upper school curriculum as well, language arts and fine arts are the key to teaching a STEM-based paradigm in elementary school. If a child doesn't have the basics about how to communicate, understand, process, and proficiently read the written word, any integrative shift in learning to STEM will not change their success for career outcomes. 

So is it STEM or STEAM?

Due to a global workforce shift, those who want to be successful and compete on the world stage are better off having a STEM-based education, but STEM can't be successful without a grounding in the fundamentals of language arts. So, although some wrongly think that it is a one versus another curriculum, STEAM versus STEM, they are synonymous. Both are imperative at different stages of development. If you don't have the proper roots in language arts, then comprehension, communication, processing, and learning will be limited.

That is why Rockin Resources products are such an integral part of your child's learning, especially in elementary and middle school. Since you have to have the ability to communicate and comprehend to get along successfully in this world, a good foundation in concrete thought is crucial in order to unlock proficiency in abstract or integrative thought later on.


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