STEM is an education curriculum that focuses heavily on the subjects of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
STEM schools and programs approach these key educational subjects in an integrated way so that elements of each subject are applied to the others. STEM-focused learning programs span from preschool through masters-degree programs, depending on resources within a given school district or region.
What Is STEM?
STEM is a growing movement in education, not just in the United States but around the world. STEM-based learning programs are intended to increase students' interest in pursuing higher education and careers in those fields. STEM education typically uses a newer model of blended learning that combines traditional classroom teaching with online learning and hands-on learning activities. This model of blended learning aims to give students the opportunity to experience different ways of learning and problem-solving.
Classes in the science category of STEM programs should look familiar and include biology, ecology, chemistry, and physics. However, your child's STEM-focused science class is not the kind of science class you might remember. STEM science classes incorporate technology, engineering, and math into scientific studies.
For some parents, the closest thing to technology classes may have been playing learn-to-type games during occasional computer lab sessions. Technology classes have definitely changed and may include topics like digital modeling and prototyping, 3D printing, mobile technology, computer programming, data analytics, Internet of Things, machine learning, and game development.
Much like technology, the field and scope of engineering has grown considerably in the last few decades. Engineering classes might include topics like civil engineering, electronics, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and robotics — topics many parents could not have imagined learning as early as elementary school.
Similar to science, mathematics is one STEM category with classes that will sound familiar, such as algebra, geometry, and calculus. However, STEM math has two main differences from the math parents remember. First, kids are learning more advanced mathematics at younger ages with introductory algebra and geometry starting as early as third grade for some students, even those not enrolled in a STEM program. Second, it bears little resemblance to math as you may have learned it. STEM math incorporates concepts and exercises that apply science, technology, and engineering to mathematics.
Benefits of STEM
STEM has become a buzzword in education. Many people have a superficial understanding of STEM learning programs, but few grasp the impact it has on the larger picture of education in America. In some ways, STEM education is a long-overdue update to our overall education system intended to bring kids up-to-speed on the skills and knowledge most relevant in today's society.
STEM initiatives also do more to reach and encourage females and minority students who may not have shown interest in STEM subjects in the past or may not have had strong support to pursue and excel in STEM subjects.