The small but powerful difference between STEM and STEAM


While STEM quite literally stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, and their usage in guiding education, STEAM is gaining an exciting mainstream understanding.

STEAM education is “an approach to learning that uses Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics as access points for guiding student inquiry, dialogue, and critical thinking” according to The Institute of Arts Integration and STEAM.

It’s our belief that it’s not just STEM that’s going to take our kids into building the foundations of the future, it’s STEAM.

The arts component is pretty key.

And this modernizing of the concept of art is one that comes not a moment too soon. Because, as it stands in many cases, arts are still continuing to be seen as soft skills. Within schools; within corporations.

But there is hope!

With the development of so many technologies that have become core to our post-pandemic lives, the arts are coming back front and center.

The arts are foundational to creating user experience, they drive the storytelling in games, they fuel interface design for multiple government and supply chain logistics tools.

Behind each tech component lies artistry that many people just don’t realize.

That’s really worthwhile tapping into. That artistry.

Whether parents are loving it or not, and regardless of the levels of success they are having with getting their children off the screen and interacting in the 3-dimesional world, the fact remains that technology is underpinning a lot of areas for our kids.

  • You can now get new glasses online by uploading an image and a prescription.
  • Your child may be building her own jeans with Levi.
  • Kids are walking around with tablets and phones with superb computing power at their fingertips that WILL give them mastery in technology of course, but also creator tools, and mentorship groups, and pretty much anything else they can think of.

In this environment, how can we be the ‘guides’ in our children’s hero’s journey?

As moms, dads, non-binary parents, teachers, grandparents, relatives, influencers of the young people in our lives, what can we do?

We believe we can bring them in contact with the right learning and experiences in STEAM.

Spotlight timeless role models, and play imagination games of ‘what if’

“Two people who probably personify STEAM are the Renaissance figures Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti.  Although these fierce competitors were known more as painters and sculptors, they were also renowned as inventors, engineers, and scientists.  For example, da Vinci conceptualized the helicopter and battle tank and made important discoveries in anatomy, hydrodynamics, and optics.  Michelangelo also worked as an architect and engineer, designing the large dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.  These men saw no boundaries between the arts and sciences.” Source: From STEM to STEAM: Students’ Beliefs About the Use of Their Creativity

What if Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo were building software and games today? What if the next update of Roblox was a specialist collab with one of them? This can form the material of imaginative discovery and articulation.

Kelley Irwin shares a story of the time she was talking to two young women who were in university in a computer science course. Kelley worked at a bank at the time and said, “We have 8,000 people at the bank in technology.” One of the young women asked,”Why does a bank need such a big tech team?” So even people in tech, interested in tech, and exploring going into tech careers don’t always see the jobs that exist in the world that require that inquisitive, analytical, computing brain power.

So, it’s on us as the guides of our children to open up the possibilities.

Look out for interesting educational collaborations

A superb education collaboration between LEGO, NASA and many US and Canadian Schools can be found in the Artemis education project. ‘Named after the mythological figure Artemis, who is both Apollo’s twin sister and Goddess of the Moon and the hunt, this ambitious campaign encompasses efforts to send the first woman and the first person of colour to walk on the surface of the Moon.’ Source: Government of Canada

LEGO teamed up with them to bring students and teachers a STEAM learning series called Build to Launch, which is an interactive digital learning adventure simulating the lives and days of NASA engineers, scientists, and astronauts on the Artemis I team preparing to launch.

Collaborations like this allow children to see the items in their everyday play lives differently, and this will potentially blur the line between work and play even further.

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