Monday, April 01, 2013

From STEM to STEAM Education

Many of us are familiar with the acronym behind STEM education - Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.  However, I was recently introduced to a new acronym - STEAM - which includes an "A" for "Art & Design."

Now, this buzzword is not new (it's been around since at least 2011, or even 2007, from what I can tell) but it is new to me, and I like it!

From what I can tell, STEAM is a movement that came out of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and, according to the STEM to STEAM website, aims to

  1. transform research policy to place Art + Design at the center of STEM
  2. encourage integration of Art + Design in K–20 education
  3. influence employers to hire artists and designers to drive innovation

The focus was put on STEM education many years ago, but to be truly competitive, it's about more than just math and science, it is about creativity and innovation; critical thinking and problem solving; and communication and collaboration.  It's about art & design.

Some sources say (well, Thom Markham says) the term STEM was first coined in the 1890's by the Committee of Ten at Harvard, as a response to the gaps in the agrarian school system of the 1800's.  Other sources point to Dr. Judith Ramaley, president of Winona State University in Minnesota, who is said to have coined the term "STEM" when she was assistant director of the education and human resources directorate at the National Science Foundation from 2001 to 2004. (Previous to her, apparently the acronym was "SMET.") Ew.

For now, especially with my interest in the Maker movement, I will adopt the acronym STEAM to inform my own teaching in science & technology.