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S.T.E.M. vs S.T.E.A.M

Assembling robots can be part of STEM and STEAM.
Assembling robots can be part of STEM and STEAM.
Photo by Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images

One of the debates raging in education is how to create workers who are skilled enough to fill the tech heavy jobs of the future. American schools are looking for ways of inspiring students to learn digital-age skills and have begun to incorporate S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) into their curriculum plans. As the Common Core standards begin to filter into the classroom, teachers are searching for ways to assess and build strong fundamental knowledge in the sciences.

A new movement called STEM to STEAM, from the Rhode Island School of Design, advocates for the introduction of Arts into this teaching structure. The hope is that by showing children how deeply science and arts permeate their everyday lives, they will become inquiry driven thinkers who can adapt and thrive in a 21st century economy.

Adding an artistic component to lessons often improves accessibility and acceptance. Students can see the pathways by which an idea coalesces and what it takes to realize in physical form. Beauty and functionality are considered when completing assignments. And often, the creative process helps kids internalize and remember the material better than just rote memorization.

S.T.E.A.M. teaches artistic components, but also has a strong focus on practical technology and problem solving. 3D printers, computer drafting programs, and educational coding languages like Scratch are used to build objects from the concept step stage upwards. Developing creativity is one of the main goals in order to ensure that America’s future workforce will be prepared for success in an ever changing global economy.

Locally, the STEAM Carnival will be held at the Port of Los Angeles on the weekend of October 25th and 26th. Run by Two Bit Circus, it promises to be an exciting, carnival-themed demonstration of the potential of the S.T.E.A.M. movement. The Student Preview Day is on Friday, October 24th from 9am to 7pm.