STEM is an acronym for the academic disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Largely replacing the “Three R’s,” its origin dates to 1991, when the Center for the Advancement of Hispanics in Science and Engineering Education launched a program for students in Washington, DC. Ten years later, the term achieved permanence when it was chosen for use by the National Science Foundation (NSF).
Today it is widely used in school curricula designed to improve science and technology education, bolstered by reports from both public and private sectors that today’s grads lack critical skills required in the 21st-century workplace.
The NSF specifies what constitutes a STEM course: chemistry, computer and information technology, engineering, geosciences, life sciences, physics, mathematics, astronomy, anthropology, economics, psychology and sociology, and STEM learning research. Other organizations, such as ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), may use different lists.
To combat the declining state of education in the United States, in 2006, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering & Medicine developed a list of action items, starting with:
- Increase America’s talent pool by improving K–12 science and mathematics education
- Strengthen the skills of teachers through additional training in science, mathematics and technology
- Enlarge the pipeline of students prepared to enter college and graduate with STEM degrees
Individual states, including Arizona, have implemented their own STEM programs. Click here to learn more about what is being done our home state.
Many educators believe that an appreciation of the arts is necessary for students to be able to make connections between concepts and problem-solving, hence STEAM was born. The added “A,” for Arts, includes the humanities, language arts, dance, drama, music, visual arts, design and media.
As stated in the current issue of Education Week online, “We need students who are motivated and competent in bringing forth solutions to tomorrow’s problems. When push comes to shove, it’s not STEM vs. STEAM — it’s about making every student a fully-literate 21st-century citizen.”
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