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What?! I'm confused! STEM/STEAM/STREAM

I frequently receive questions from teachers and sometimes, when I get several requests for the same question, I’ll post the response in my blog. Here’s my latest Q & A session:

A recent question posed to me by a teacher : Why do you call it STEAM instead of STEM? 

It seems that there’s always talk about STEM/STEAM/STREAM and any other variation you may have heard. I have a super-quick response to that question:

Call it what you want, I don’t care. Let’s just do it. 

That’s my quick response to that question. Does it really matter? Well, yeah, maybe. But that’s my quick response to let the action win before “committee-conversations” spend hours overworking the terminology and miss the dad-gummed train.

Here’s my longer, more honest response:

The STEM initiative was born back around 2004, in the heart of No Child Left Behind. Most STEM programs are a product of that standards-first thinking.

STEAMmaker CarAnd I’m not saying that’s bad. But in 2015, we have an “evolved” view of what STEM can be, based upon the lessons of the 2004 edition and the current iteration of technology and what that explosion has afforded education in the ways we access information and ways we can now interact with problems and solutions. We see this as we understand how PBL works inside a student-centered community. The approach we are now taking to education is very different in 2015 than it ever could have been for the majority of schools in 2004.

But you see, the approach to learning with the STEM of 2004 still is very much teacher-driven instruction. The classroom mindset often remains where the kids do a teacher-designed activity, which is fun, but that is also often followed up by a reflection worksheet.

A worksheet.

MakerEducation is the longer leap beyond that 2004 approach. But let’s not skip the gap. Lets be sure we’re building a bridge from 2004 to 2016:

When we say STEAM, we’re not saying Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics any more. That’s only a simple variation on the 2004 approach.

We’re replacing the T and the A. And it matters.

We’re replacing it with T = Tinkering

Because technology is like air –it’s everywhere and doesn’t need a special place in 2015. Great schools are already embracing more than digital worksheets and using tech as a research and creation tool. So let’s make T stand for Tinkering and iteration. For learning and experimenting and mistakes and failures and rethinking and redesigning.

And let’s let A = Aesthetics.

Because when we say “art” many of us automatically think of 3 things: dance, music, and 2d drawing/painting. But Aesthetics is SO much more than that. Can we agree that even an internal combustion engine can have an aesthetic design? Lift the hood of any muscle car and tell me beauty isn’t in there. So we’re expanding the “arts” view into more Aesthetic appreciation. Into engineering. Into math. Into science.

And for the record, I’m not putting R (reading) in to create STREAM. Because R is already in there — what can be done in schools today without reading? It’s already ingrained, again like technology. 

So that’s my longer spiel of why we call it STEAM instead of STEM.

But truly, call it what you want: STEM, STEAM, STREAM, whatever. I believe Shakespeare said it best: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

However, I do believe the core intention shifts for the better, student-centered, design-oriented approach when we say Tinkering and Aesthetics.

Learn more about our STEAMmaker Camps, which are truly hands-on professional learning done right alongside your students. 

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Written by GingerLewman

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