What Is STEAM Education?


STEAM education is similar to STEM education but with one key difference, which is the “A” for arts. It focuses on science, technology, engineering, and math - and also covers arts subjects.

The arts in STEAM education includes subjects like the following:

  • Humanities, such as philosophy
  • Languages
  • Dance
  • Theater or drama
  • Musical arts, including singing
  • Visual arts, such as painting
  • Graphic design

While STEM focuses on scientific concepts as an interdisciplinary approach, STEAM education investigates the same concepts but as part of the creative or artistic process. For example, a student may learn computer programming while designing a three-dimensional model of a sculpted artwork.

What is the difference between STEM and STEAM in education?

STEM and STEAM are basically the same in many aspects. Both have interdisciplinary approaches in their subject matter. Both are concerned with applying scientific knowledge and skills in solving problems. Projects in these academic tracks in high school require the simultaneous application of different concepts. However, there are some differences in the approach of teaching and learning between STEM and STEAM.

Maybe you’re wondering about the “A” in STEAM education and why it’s necessary. Well, as previously mentioned, the A stands for the arts. The main idea here is to allow students the opportunity to discover the connection between arts and sciences. They can learn different sets of skills. In this manner they can be creative and improving their problem-solving skills (related - check out our 5 Problem-solving Lesson Ideas for plans that cover STEAM subjects).

Some people argue that adding arts in the curriculum may confuse students. The STEM academic track covers the scientific and technical side of knowledge. In contrast, art is more concerned with the subjective expressions of an individual through creative works that have aesthetic value.

On the other hand, others would argue that integrating art in science and technology curriculum will enhance the overall skills, knowledge, and appreciation of students for the scientific pursuit (and we agree). They may discover unexpected connections between science and art. Here are some examples:

  • Anatomy - Studying human anatomy may become more interested in body and facial aesthetics for the concepts to be applied in realistic computer animations.
  • Fluid dynamics - Knowing about fluid dynamics can make a student more aware of the aerodynamic aesthetics of designing a car.
  • Acoustics - the physics of sound can be applied to creating music, designing new musical instruments, and improving the acoustics of a theater.
  • Optics - painting and other visual arts can be more precise and accurate with the help of the knowledge of optics and light frequencies.

What does STEAM stand for in education?

The STEAM curriculum stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics. It integrates the more familiar STEM curriculum with the arts. Aside from the core science subjects such as physics and chemistry, as well as math subjects such as calculus, the STEAM curriculum also includes various forms of arts such as dancing, painting, sculpting, and writing.

For several years, the movement advocating for the integration of arts in the traditional STEM curriculum has emphasized the importance of preparing students for the real world. It is meant to promote not only critical thinking but also creativity, which is necessary for many real-world jobs.

Integrating arts in the traditional STEM curriculum makes students more adaptive rather than limited by technicalities. It teaches them to be more flexible in any given situation.

Why is STEAM education important in education?

Integrating arts in traditional STEM education, STEAM is a holistic approach that adds more value to science-oriented education.

STEAM education is important because it opens the opportunity for both teachers and students to broaden their horizons. It prepares them for the challenges of the real world.

It allows them to apply scientific principles and technological innovations in many areas of artistic endeavors. Many job opportunities in the the market involve using technology in creative purposes such as in advertising, 3D modeling, and movie-making.

The STEAM education model

Teaching science, technology, engineering, arts, and math not as distinct subjects but as integrated subjects is the basic STEAM education model. It is a specialized curriculum as compared to general academic education or purely vocational education.

It is meant to train future scientists and engineers at the basic level of education, especially in high school. It integrates the creative aspect of art to make students not mere consumers or users of technology but also creators of technology. It encourages innovative thinking among students.

Meanwhile, on the part of the teachers, they can have more interactive lessons that are collaborative and project-based. Students are not anymore just absorbing the inputs from the teachers but are able to learn skills and knowledge through hands-on approach. Teachers can design lessons, projects, and modules that cross the five disciplines. It is meant to encourage students to use both sides of their brain.

The future of STEAM

STEAM education provides an opportunity for students to study the science of art and the art of science. This means a deeper understanding of both theory and practice. The future of STEAM as an integrated curriculum aims to prepare students for the fourth industrial revolution.

Sometimes called Industry 4.0 or 4IR, the Fourth Industrial Revolution involves the interconnectivity of people and the increased use of AI in automated devices. Industry 4.0 also involves genetic engineering and advanced robotics, which will cause a significant shift in industrial capitalism. It will make production more efficient but also will render many jobs obsolete. It will also radically change societal interactions and roles.

The best way to adapt is through the creative fields where AI will have difficulty to compete with humans. STEAM education is tailored to teach students not only the technical skills, but also how to become creative and think outside the box.

Are you an educator looking for STEAM resources for middle school, high school or university? Take a look at Arduino Education kits and how they can support your hands-on STEAM lessons.