What is STEAM?

STEAM education is the name given to an education model that focuses on science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics, with a strong emphasis on integration between these core skills.  STEAM initiatives are intended to prepare students for future work roles by helping them develop creativity, innovation, leadership, and critical thinking skills.  Science and technology match up well because much of the technology we use and rely on has been the result of scientific discovery.  The link with engineering is also clear in much the same way because engineering uses scientific ideas and concepts to design and create structures, machines, and objects.  Similarly, science and mathematics go hand-in-hand, especially with physics, where numerical data is crucial.

Engaged learning

Creating STEAM projects that illustrate STEM concepts empowers students to become part of the teaching process.  Through hands-on, creative learning, studies show that students not only learn more – they retain what they learn

Better test scores

Through pilot classrooms and independent, peer-reviewed studies, it’s shown time and again that the engaged learning process created by STEAM leads to better test scores in classrooms.

Improved behavior

Teachers who use STEAM arts integration curricula in their classrooms report a dramatic decrease in off-task behavior and more than 20 percent reduction in classroom disruptions

STEAM is inclusive

STEAM education is an inclusive curriculum that works for all students, regardless of culture, ethnicity, or learning style.  In fact, STEAM arts integration shows increased gains in Title I classrooms.  It’s an approach to education that delivers the biggest benefits to the students who need it most.

Fun in the classroom

By using art projects as a springboard for teaching STEM, a K-5 STEAM curriculum makes learning fun for students – while improving their learning and test performance.   Engaged students learn more and retain more of what they learn.

Skills Development

STEAM subject categories are considered important for developing key life skills, which include media and technology literacy, productivity, social skills, communication, flexibility, and initiative.  Other skills attained through STEM education include problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, curiosity, decision making, leadership, entrepreneurship, acceptance of failure and more


The importance of science is that it teaches critical thinking skills, the search for truth, and highly transferable problem-solving skills based on evidence and logical thought patterns.  Science education typically involves three main fields: physics, biology, and chemistry.  Topics like energy, matter, force, and space fall under physics, while biology focuses on the study of living organisms and chemistry introduces students to the study of chemicals and elements.

Why Study Science?

Exploring the many fascinating topics involved in science, from astronomy to zoology, fosters children’s curiosity about the world around them.  It also teaches them to apply the scientific method to find answers and solutions.  This involves identifying a question or problem, making observations, developing and testing hypothesis, and evaluating the results.   By combining science with technology, engineering, art and math, STEAM education leads children to see how science is connected to other fields and interests, and it can help eliminate the intimidation some children can feel when encountering certain concepts or activities in science.


Science and the subjects contained within this umbrella term, such as chemistry, physics, and biology, are extremely important for educational development because we are all surrounded by scientific concepts every day, while scientific evidence is used to make important decisions in a huge range of fields.  It is crucial for students to learn the scientific method because it teaches them to solve problems and make decisions based on evidence and logical thought patterns.  This can be especially important for logical learners, but the core skills involved in the scientific method are useful for students with all learning styles or preferences.  Aside from learning how to think scientifically, it is also useful for students to gain an understanding of how science links with the other STEAM components.   While technology and engineering are both hugely reliant on scientific knowledge and discovery, the process of hypothesizing, testing, and drawing conclusions from the evidence are applicable elsewhere.


With technology-related skills increasingly in demand, it is crucial that students learn to utilize technology at a young age and continue to use technology throughout their education.  Exploring technology helps children to understand and value innovation while building 21st-century skills like media and technology literacy, productivity, social skills, communication, flexibility, and initiative.  These kinds of skills will be critical for children as they grow in our ever-changing world, regardless of whether or not they pursue a career in a tech-based field in the future.

Why Study Technology?

There are many ways in which children can gain and apply knowledge of technology through STEAM education.  They can build familiarity with how computers work, investigate robotics, learn basic coding skills, reverse engineer an electronic device, or design, build and test an invention prototype.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, many children have applied tech skills each time they join and participate in virtual learning experiences.  Because STEAM is an interdisciplinary approach, children engaged in this type of learning often use tech tools and skills as they explore science, engineering, math, or the arts.  For example, a child could discover how 3D printing can help them create art, or they might build math and science skills while learning how data informs the development of new technology.


Information Technology (IT), for example, is a fundamental part of almost any organization you can think of, and even education itself is becoming increasingly reliant on the use of various EdTech solutions either in the classroom, or to facilitate remote learning.  Technology also links very clearly with the other STEAM fields.  For example, the strong links between science and technology can be clearly seen in fields like data science and cybersecurity.  A growing number of technology-based careers require the kind of creative thinking taught in the arts, while others will require numeracy skills.   It is crucial that students learn to utilize technology at a young age and continue to use technology throughout their education.  On top of this, it is equally vital that teachers develop an appreciation for the use of technology and a firm understanding of how much it can positively influence learning outcomes and student engagement.


Engineering is becoming increasingly relevant in a rapidly developing world, with recent years seeing a sharp increase in demand for engineering skills to create the objects and infrastructure we rely on.   Each day, engineers across the world take the principles of mathematics and science and apply them to solve real-world problems, designing and constructing everything from cars and bridges to new types of chemicals and computer software.

Why Study Engineering?

In a professional setting, engineering is separated into five disciplines:

  • Chemical engineering applies chemistry, mathematics, biology, mathematics, and physics to manufacture fuel, medicines, materials and even food products.  In recent years, developments in this area have been instrumental in advancing the efficiency of renewable energy sources and increased battery capacity for electric cars.
  • Electrical engineering is one of the newer engineering disciplines and focuses on electronics and electrical equipment.  Those working in this specialty create a wide range of products, from small objects like microchips and computer hardware to gigantic power generators and satellites that orbit the earth.
  • Mechanical engineering deals with the creation and development of mechanical systems that involve any type of motion.  Using the principles of math and physics, mechanical engineers design and produce many different machines including wind turbines, airplanes, cars, prosthetics, and machining equipment.
  • Industrial engineering is used in a wide range of industries to increase quality and efficiency.  Examples include developing more effective and accurate supply chains, and designing practices and strategies that enable safer work environments.
  • Civil engineering focuses on building structures that are used by the public, including roads, airports, and sewer systems.  Some of the most famous of these structures include the Golden Gate Bridge, the English Channel Tunnel, the Great Pyramid of Giza, and the International Space Station.

Along with engaging in the other components of STEAM, practicing engineering allows children to tap into their natural curiosity and develop creative ways to overcome challenges they have experienced in their own lives


Engineering can be broadly described as the application of scientific principles in order to create objects, machines, structures, products, and more.  It is most commonly divided into four main fields: civil engineering (buildings, bridges, infrastructure, etc.), electrical engineering (electronic devices, electrical circuits, control systems, etc.), mechanical engineering (robotics, vehicles, engines, etc.), and chemical engineering (chemical manufacturing, oil refinery, etc.)  However, aerospace engineering is sometimes included as a distinct fifth branch.  In truth, the importance of teaching engineering concepts and principles within academic institutions cannot be overstated because the world needs engineers of all kinds to create the objects and infrastructure we rely on.  In addition to engineering being dependent on scientific principles, there is a major cross-over with mathematics and especially geometry.  However, engineering also links with the other STEAM fields in various ways.  The arts, for example, are based on creativity, and there is a very clear artistic element to designing and engineering a bridge or a building.  Similarly, the actual engineering process relies on technology, including computers and other machines.


The goal of Arts in STEAM is to teach students the value of creativity, innovation, communication, and contemplation.  These skills are often in high demand with the workforce, where creative solutions to problems are needed and where different perspectives can be useful.   In practice, STEAM is defined as arts integration, an approach to teaching and learning through which content standards are taught and assessed equitably in and through the arts.  It’s the intentional weaving of academic study – typically math, science, social studies, and English and language arts – with arts disciplines such as visual art, dance, music, and theater.

Why Study Art?

Sometimes, students who self-identify as “artistic” shy away from STEM subjects.  Because they view these subjects as technical in nature, they often see these areas as unrelated to their personal interests.  However, when a STEM-based program incorporates activities that require students to think about marketing and designing their creations, students who are artistically inclined can feel a sense of belonging.  For students who may not be motivated by math, the science, or even the technology, it may be the creative piece that gives them the spark they need to truly engage.

To ensure a high quality and effective STEM education, student engagement is essential.  Because these types of subjects are at times inherently technical, students can lose interest if lessons lack interactivity.  To combat this, educators can embrace hands-on learning techniques to increase interest and excitement.  Incorporating art and design into lesson planning has been shown to increase engagement and improve students’ learning outcomes, and it gives students a sense of ownership over what they’re working on.  This increased level of engagement improves students’ ability to retain information and encourages interest in learning more about the given subject.

As the world continues to evolve, the demand for creative solutions needed to address complex problems will continue to increase.  Though curricula that focus on specific technical skillsets, such as coding boot camps, continue to grow in popularity, the importance of interdisciplinary STEM education has long been promoted by even the highest levels of our government.  According to John Maeda, former president of the Rhode Island School of Design, the most creative and influential designs arise from the marriage of art and the sciences, as opposed to viewing these subjects as unrelated to each other.


The arts are an extremely broad field that encompasses a wide range of subjects, many of which have not traditionally been viewed as particularly “academic”.  We can break the arts down into the sub-categories of fine arts, language arts, physical arts, manual arts, and liberal arts.  Prior to the concept of STEAM, many of these subjects were not considered critical to the end goal of developing students into highly skilled citizens, with abilities and qualifications that are in demand in the workforce.  However, this view has since changed.  The language arts, for instance, have cross-over with every other STEAM field because they focus on effective communication, while liberal arts are also considered important academic subjects.  Historically, fine arts and physical arts have struggled to be viewed as important vocational subjects, but this view has also changed.  Today, there is a greater appreciation for the importance of developing creative and expressive skills.  Clearly, there are many potential career options for people with drawing, painting, and performing skills.


Mathematics helps to bind the other elements together as it is needed to solve problems in the fields of science, technology, and engineering, while also providing structure to the arts.  While understanding mathematics grows increasingly important for students who wish to pursue a STEAM career, for those who don’t take a natural interest in such subjects, math can be incredibly intimidating.  Reasons for this are many and include the promotion of abstract concepts in the classroom and emphasis on memorization as a learning technique.  Because mathematical concepts build on one another, if a child falls behind early, it can take them a long time to catch up with the rest of their class.

Why Study Math?

According to research published in Education Week, mathematics anxiety is the debilitating feeling of tension and anxiety when it comes to solving math problems.  It begins in kindergarten and affects almost half of elementary school children.  The symptoms of this anxiety come in many forms, such as frustration, a lack of engagement, low achievement, and negative self-talk.  Clearly, traditional forms of mathematics instruction are producing unsatisfactory results.  To correct this troubling trend, we must find different and more effective ways of teaching this material.

The act of storytelling, which is as old as the earliest human civilizations, allows us to share information in an effective and memorable way.  Because our brains have evolved to intuitively understand the world around us through the power of storytelling, applying this same principle to teaching can have amazing results.  While teaching mathematics, using storytelling elements to make numbers less abstract is a great way to both boost classroom engagement and make the subject more inviting.  For example, instead of focusing on memorization and solving math problems, create a story where each number has a real-world equivalent (a piece of candy, an animal, a fruit, etc.) and come up with a scenario involving a conflict your students have to address.  As with all stories, the more engaging the conflict, the more interested your students will be in its resolution.


Finally, the last piece of the STEAM puzzle is mathematics and, in many ways, it also helps to bind the other elements together.  After all, mathematics is needed to solve problems in fields like science, technology, and engineering, while it can also provide the necessary structure to the arts.  Of course, numeracy is also an essential life skill more generally.  One of the challenges with mathematics as an academic subject is that although it is widely seen as being a core part of the curriculum, many students find it difficult to enjoy.  Therefore, many STEAM education initiatives aim to boost engagement in this area and encourage more students to continue to study the subject at a college or university level.  A major benefit that mathematics offers over many subjects is its universal nature, regardless of language, which opens up career possibilities all over the world.  Within the workforce, advanced mathematics skills are in high demand in a range of fields, from scientific research and data analysis roles, through to engineering and medicine.