STEM is an acronym referring to the academic disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The term STEM is typically used when addressing education policy and curriculum choices in schools to competitiveness in science and technology development.

STEAM is designed to integrate STEM subjects into various relevant disciplines in education using the arts. STEAM programs add the arts to STEM curriculum by drawing on design principles and encouraging creative solutions to real-world problems.

The concept of interactive art as a platform for engagement in science and technology is not a new one. Research has shown that interactivity promotes discovery and development of meaning (Muller and Edmonds, 2006). When we talk about STEAM, we are talking using the arts—visual arts and design, music, theater, to name a few—as a vehicle for inspiring the imagination and making STEM education and tools meaningful and applicable to students’ own experiences. STEAM activities actively engage students in inquiry by creating and reflecting on meaning through dialogue, collaboration, and interaction.

STEAM education is about developing the habits of mind. Through STEAM, our students discover what it means to think and act like scientists who investigate; technologists who use tools in appropriate, strategic ways; engineers who design and build; artists who engage in creative thinking; and mathematicians who define and solve problems. Regardless of whether our students end up pursuing a career in STEM, the overall goal is to develop inquisitive thinkers and doers who seek to grow and apply their literacy in STEAM throughout their lives. That is, to develop lifelong learners.

Want to start incorporating STEAM into your lessons and units? Here are some good places to start:

Exploratorium’s Science Snacks
This website has hands-on, teacher-tested science activities that use cheap, available materials. Each activity explores a scientific phenomenon, provides an explanation of that phenomenon, and ideas for taking the activity further. The subjects explored include various fields of science, math, and culture and society. Some of the activities are aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards.

Education Closet’s STEAM Portal
This website has 10 free, ready-to-use K–12 STEAM lessons that are interactive and aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards.

STEAM Bored Jar
This website has 48 STEAM activities that are ready in five minutes. The idea is to put the names of the activities on little strips of paper in a jar for when students need an activity to get them reengaged. This site has examples of activities appropriate for preschool, too. Example: Feel the force of gravity.

Get the Math
This website helps middle and high school students see how a variety of professionals (music, fashion, videogames, restaurants, basketball, and special effects) use math in their work and—through video challenges—involves them in solving real problems that these professionals encounter. Teachers can download a media kit with all the lessons and videos through the website. Example: Get the Math Fashion requires students to help Project Runway winner Chloe Dao figure out what modifications she can make to a shirt she has designed in order to keep the integrity of the design, get the price right for customers, and still make a profit.

References & Further Reading:
From STEM to STEAM: Reframing what it means to learn