What is STEM?

STEM education aims to create a more interdisciplinary teaching structure between Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) subjects, in which the boundaries of each field are blurred to provide students with a more realistic and holistic approach to learning.

By incorporating elements of the other three STEM disciplines into each STEM subject, students are encouraged to develop more realistic problem solving, critical thinking, and logic skills that will better serve them in high school, college and beyond. The STEM education model aims to get students interested and skilled in the STEM subjects early on, so that they can develop the necessary tools to become the problem solvers, innovators, inventors, and logical thinkers of the next generation.

Science

The discovery, invention, and exploration inherent in the scientific method and processes is what drives the advancement of our world. Science education allows students to apply the scientific method, perform basic research and experimentation, and develop critical thinking skills. It also provides them with a basic understanding of the natural and scientific properties of the world around them—which is crucial for developing scientific solutions to nearly any problem.

Science drives the innovation of the future and develops new ways of looking at the world and creating innovative solutions. Developing understanding of more advanced scientific skills and procedures early on provides students with better opportunity for success in high school and college and encourages continued exploration and development in all STEM areas.

Some examples of subjects that comprise the science category of STEM include but are not limited to:

  • Agricultural sciences, such as: animal science, plant science, horticulture, environmental science, and food science.
  • Biological sciences, such as: anatomy, biology, biochemistry, biotechnology, cell biology, ecology, genetics, marine biology, and paleontology.
  • Physical sciences, such as: physics, chemistry, astronomy, forensics, earth science, atmospheric science, oceanography, and atomic science.
  • Social/behavioral sciences, including: anthropology, psychology, cognitive science, psychobiology, and sociology.
  • Computer science, which involves constructing mathematical models and quantitative analysis techniques and using computers to analyze and solve scientific problems. It incorporates many other areas of STEM, including technology theories, mathematical algorithms, and even basic software engineering.

Technology

Technology has been the driving force behind many of the advances of the past century. In today’s technological society, it is important for students to be proficient in the hardware and software knowledge and skills necessary to become competitive in the career marketplace, and to be able to use technology as a means and a tool for furthering their studies.

The technology component of STEM not only helps students to foster a deeper understanding of the other three STEM components, but helps them become comfortable and familiar with technological concepts in general. Incorporating technology such as computers, specialized applications, simulations, animations, and other tools help prepare students for the real world and allow them to explore STEM subjects in ways that go beyond traditional classroom limitations. While computers are powerful and widespread form of technology, and have become essential tools for students to master at increasingly younger ages, technology in the STEM areas can also include other kinds of specialized devices, instruments, and tools of all kinds that can be applied in the science, engineering and mathematical fields.

Technology education and application also helps students become familiar with and exposed to the opportunities presented in technology-heavy fields, which are increasingly essential and ever-expanding. It can also help students develop an interest in technology itself, opening the door to innovative thinking critical in the development of new technologies.

The technological advances of tomorrow will no doubt come from those with a strong STEM background who find ways to surpass the limitations humans and current technology face.

Engineering

Incorporating engineering concepts into curricula reinforces science and mathematical concepts and encourages students to become hands-on problem solvers and critical thinkers. For example, taking typical elementary-level science concepts such as insects, simple machines, and the water cycle and pairing them with areas of engineering—agricultural engineering, industrial engineering, and environmental engineering, respectively—allows students to apply the scientific concepts they have learned to develop practical solutions to problems. This, in essence, is what engineering is all about.

Types of engineering that can be incorporated into science education engineering projects include:

  • Aerospace engineering
  • Agricultural engineering
  • Architectural engineering
  • Bio/biomedical engineering
  • Chemical engineering
  • Civil engineering
  • Computer/software engineering
  • Electrical engineering
  • Environmental engineering
  • Industrial engineering
  • Mechanical engineering
  • Ocean engineering

Engineering gives students an instant connection between math, science and everyday life. Engineering projects and activities allow students to focus on the process and design of solutions, instead of the solutions themselves. This gives students the ability to explore mathematics and science in a more personalized context, and enforces innovative, creative, and critical thinking.

Engineering gives students an instant connection between math, science and everyday life. Engineering projects and activities allow students to focus on the process and design of solutions, instead of the solutions themselves. This gives students the ability to explore mathematics and science in a more personalized context, and enforces innovative, creative, and critical thinking.

Math

Math is critical to the understanding and applications of the other STEM subjects and provides the skills and building blocks necessary for continued education and growth. Too often, students do not see a concrete connection between the M and the STE in STEM until college, which is often too late.

Struggling with math is a major contributing factor for students dropping out of college, dropping out of a STEM major of study, and failing college STEM subjects, leading directly to the "shortage of American-born workers in the STEM fields" dilemma.

Incorporating math into the other three STEM concentrations in a more integrative approach at the K-12 level allows students to value and see math in a more personalized and practical way, build interest in the exploration of math, and promotes valuable skills. Critical thinking, multiple-step problem solving, and logic skills can be developed very early on in elementary mathematical subjects. Elementary and secondary-level mathematical skills are the building blocks for algebra, which is the building block for more advanced concepts at the high school and college levels.

By incorporating and emphasizing math early on, educators can open the door to future STEM success. Building a strong foundation of math skills in elementary and secondary school provides students with the tools necessary for success in their higher education, careers, and everyday lives.

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