Have you heard of STEM? This four-letter word is actually an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Sometimes, you may also stumble upon STEAM, which includes Arts, along with the other four subjects.
Nowadays, rather than teaching them as four (or five) separate and distinct subjects, STEM is being cohesively incorporated into school syllabuses to form part of students’ overall curriculum.
Believe it or not, STEM is vital to the future of our economy and has a part in everything we do. How? Let’s find out!
STEM Explained in More Detail
Science helps us gain a better understanding of the world in which we live. It's the study of matter and energy (physics and chemistry), and the life around us (biology). It's the study of plants (botany), the universe (astrology and astronomy) and the earth (geology).
Everything from the weather to earthquakes, to ocean's waves, to the sand at the beach, to what we eat and drink and the clothes that we wear, to the soap that we use, to the medicines that we take, to the flowers that we plant—it's all based in science.
Technology has sneaked into our everyday lives and now affects everything we do. It affects how we sleep, play, study, work, travel, shop, diagnose and treat sick people. If we look around us right now, we'd be hard pressed to find something that has not been advanced by technology.
We can thank technological advancements for our cars, our smartphones, our synthetic mattresses, the springs in our beds, energy-efficient light bulbs, X-ray machines, home appliances, water filters, the carpets that we walk on, the chairs we stretch out on, electric cars, solar panels, the Internet, medical breakthroughs, and so much more. Technology is innovation at its finest. We might not like everything about it, but it's here to stay and is advancing at a rapid rate.
Engineering is the application of scientific knowledge to solve problems in the real world through building and design. It encompasses everything from construction (houses, roads, bridges), to tackling climate change, to modes of transportation, to household appliances, and cell phones. It's the study of architecture, mechanical design, robotics, avionics, information technology, technology, engineering (civil, mechanical, electrical and chemical).
Math is the language of science, technology and engineering. No matter what our job is, math is an essential part of our lives. When we think of math we often think back to the horrors of calculus class. We wonder why it was so important to know how to do prime factorization because well, let's be honest, have we ever needed to do that since grade school? But math is so much more than that.
We need it to manage our household budgets, shop for groceries at the store, understand our taxes, manage work budgets, and save up for a vacation. Having a good understanding of math is essential in so many careers and not just the obvious ones like stock broker, economist, accountant, and tax adviser. It also plays a significant role in graphic design, animation, photography, engineering, games design, sports commentary, astronomy, and more.
Why Is STEM Education Important?
It's no longer enough to be proficient in English and math. It's no longer enough to just memorize a ton of facts. According to the National Math and Science Initiative, 15 of the 20 fastest-growing careers currently require a background in math or science.
“The innovations and creativity in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) will be the drivers of tomorrow’s economy,” astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson said in an interview with CNN. “If you are not a participant on that frontier, you will trail behind it and possibly get left behind entirely.”
STEM education is more than just those four specific disciplines, though. Its benefits carry over into a number of other areas. Through hands-on learning about real-world experiences, students are being taught to question, investigate, connect and reflect. STEM education requires kids to create, innovate, and build.
By practicing critical and logical thinking, students become better at solving problems, brainstorming new and better solutions, collaborating, communicating, and gain confidence to share their thoughts and ideas. STEM teaches kids how to engage with the world around them.
Building robots, experimenting with circuit boards, designing science experiments, coding, learning on iPads/computers, common core math, school field trips, and science camps are all great examples of STEM activities at school.
However, there's a lot we can do out of school too to further develop a child's STEM education. STEM activities for home can include LEGO building, baking, making your own play do'h, making a castle from cardboard boxes, and even playing games on the iPad! The list is literally endless.
It doesn’t matter where your child is becoming familiar with STEM education—it's important that they are getting a chance to learn through STEM. STEM workers will be the ones who "drive our nation's innovation and competitiveness by generating new ideas and new companies" (The US Department of Commerce).