STEM vs. STEAM Programs


While many educators, program leaders, and parents alike enjoy all that STEM has to offer, there are a good number of critics who feel differently. The acronym for “Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math,” STEM has grown in popularity over the past few years, but not without its share of criticism. One of the biggest complaints about STEM is that, while it’s very inclusive to all things science and math-related, it excludes many of the liberal arts.

With a higher push for improving math test scores and bringing more people into the science and engineering workforce, many schools have felt the need to bring a STEM focus into curriculum. Some worry, however, that this increased focus on science and math is taking emphasis away from literature, art, music, and more. Today, we will focus on whether that balance can be met in the form of STEAM. Learn more about what STEAM has to offer, and check out techJOYnT to find the perfect STEM pathway or program today!

What exactly is STEAM?

STEAM has all the same components of STEM, but includes an added “A” for “Arts.” This can include everything from visual arts, theater arts, and more. STEAM developed as a response to STEM, as some found it worrisome that with this increased push for science, the arts would get left behind. Indeed, there is proof that focusing on the arts is highly beneficial for all students—a study from the University of Florida showed that students who studied the arts scored an average of 98 points higher on the SAT than students who studied the arts for less than a year.

Putting test scores aside, we also know how important the arts are to both individuals and society as a whole. For so many people, creative expression and the means to do so is practically as necessary as breathing. There are countless examples of people who have struggled in other aspects of life, but have found meaning and have excelled in the arts. Thinking creatively is as much a part of STEM as it is for the arts, and both concepts encourage some of the greatest virtues we value as a society.

Should we be pushing for STEAM instead of STEM?

This is a debate that continues to stay unresolved. While the arts are an essential part of human nature, the fact remains that we are lacking in science careers. Edudemic reported that in 2008, only 4 percent of Bachelor’s degrees were for engineering. This is a pretty staggering statistic, because from a workforce perspective, the demand for engineers and scientists is much higher than the demand for artists (in whatever capacity that might entail).

Additionally, the gender and racial disparity in the science industry cause many to encourage a greater push for STEM—without the “A.” The same article mentioned how 12 percent of those working in a STEM profession were black or Hispanic. The lack of women in the science industry is no secret— a Forbes article stated that at Purdue University, only 20 percent of engineering degrees in 2014 went to women. Many proponents of STEM argue that we can close these gaps by encouraging STEM on a much more inclusive level. If we push STEM for all, we might be able to see more jobs filled, as well as covered in a much more equitable way.

Finding a balance.

When it comes to STEAM or STEM, there really is no right answer. Pushing for the arts could once again leave underserved populations hanging, and left out of the science workforce. Pushing for science could also leave out those who thrive in the arts.

Instead of an either-or scenario, education should be holistic by nature. There is no deficit to learning science skills, and there is equally no deficit to exposing students to the arts. STEM comes from a place of exposing the harsh realities of the science workforce, and trying to take more preventative measures. To find amazing STEM programs for your students or family that still encourage creativity and artistic design, check out all that techJOYnT has to offer. Invest in STEM today!

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