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What is the difference between STEM and STEAM?

What is the difference between STEM and STEAM?

Posted by Andrea Elliott on Jan 31st 2020

If you’re a parent, caregiver or educator, chances are you’ve heard of STEM and STEAM. These aren’t just trendy buzzwords, they’re actually really important learning concepts.

In our modern world, there is an imminent need for science, technology, engineering and math skills. To be hirable and future-ready, individuals need to have a well-rounded aptitude and be aware of how a range of skills fit together.

So what is the difference between STEM and STEAM? It’s not just one letter!

According to an article published by TheConversation:

“The main difference between STEM and STEAM is STEM explicitly focuses on scientific concepts. STEAM investigates the same concepts, but does this through inquiry and problem-based learning methods used in the creative process. STEAM is not a new concept. People such as Leonardo Da Vinci have shown us the importance of combining science and art to make discoveries.”

Promoting STEAM is about incorporating the arts into the core STEM subjects to maximize the benefits for learners. STEM represents science, technology, engineering and math. “STEAM” represents STEM plus the arts – humanities, language arts, dance, drama, music, visual arts, design and new media.

STEAM challenges preconceptions that learning areas are separate, and moves past the “I’m good at math and science, so I’m not creative” way of thinking. STEAM changes the way we see STEM problems and creates a new way of thinking that is engaging, multifaceted and inclusive, with diversity of representation and thought. This is how it is in the real world, after all.

STEM naturally requires artistic elements (for example, product design), language arts (communication), and social studies and history (setting the context for engineering challenges).The purpose of STEAM should not be so much to teach art but to apply art in real situations. "Applied knowledge leads to deeper learning."

According to an article on SteampoweredFamily.com:

“STEM and STEAM are not new, they are simply ways of understanding and applying an integrated form of learning that resembles real life. Instead of teaching math as separate from science, they can be taught together in a way that shows how the knowledge from those two fields compliment and support each other. STEAM education in schools provides students with the opportunity to learn creatively, using 21st century skills such as problem solving.”The conventional STEM education model emphasizes the exploration of these four fields (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math), but does not teach students the critical process of creativity and innovation that should always work in tandem with STEM to solve problems."

Students need more in-depth knowledge of math and science, plus the ability to integrate and apply that knowledge to solve the challenges facing society. STEM education also helps develop a whole slew of skills that are essential for success such as: critical thinking and problem solving, creativity and innovation, communication, collaboration, and entrepreneurship.

“Art isn’t just about working in a studio. Art is about discovering and creating ingenious ways of problem solving, integrating principles or presenting information.” - Steampoweredfamily.com

According to an article on MakeBlock:

“By studying the arts–humanities, language arts, dance, music, visual arts, design and so much more–students are encouraged to think outside the box and gain innovative ways to look at things. In addition, many studies have shown that students involved in the arts score higher on math and reading tests than students without exposure to the arts.”

Unless they’re planning to be in a trivia bowl, gone is the need for children to memorize random facts. With modern technology, we have a plethora of facts right at our fingertips now - literally in our pockets! Education should no longer be centered around teaching random facts and figures so that children can perform well on a test. Instead it should be about learning how to think critically, processing information, solving problems and developing important skills for life.

How To Get Your Kids Interested In STEM

STEM concepts align directly with how children’s minds learn and work right from the beginning. The best way to get kids interested in STEM concepts is to support and encourage their natural curiosity. Afterall, most children are curious about everything! Kids love to ask questions, explore their surroundings, experiment and most of all they love to play. It is important to provide an environment conducive to this natural behavior. Give them ample opportunities to be in nature, and ways to experiment in play with simple toys and objects.

Nearly all HABA toys and games have STEM/STEAM properties. From our puzzles, sorting and block sets for toddlers, to our Kullerbu and arranging sets for pre-schoolers, to our games for school-aged learners. Our battery-free, screen-free toys encourage STEM/STEAM play-based learning for every age!