The time to prepare American youth for the future is now. Educators can help students develop the skills they need to succeed, to contribute to and play an effective role in society. They can help students gain the knowledge and skills that will help them solve problems and make decisions. The tools educators use to guide students to the future are key because they play a critical role in how students develop into contributing members of society. Enter STEAM education.
STEAM education incorporates science, technology, engineering, arts, and math for an interdisciplinary approach to learning. Having evolved from STEM education, its focus is on holistically cultivating students’ ability to solve complex, real-world problems in a comprehensive way. STEAM education is an integrative approach that contributes to the development of critical thinking, empirical, and quantitative skills. It promotes the application of these higher-order skills giving students opportunities to practice innovative problem-solving strategies including collaborative, hands-on approaches to inquiry.
“STEAM is an educational approach to learning that uses Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics as access points for guiding student inquiry, dialogue, and critical thinking. The end results are students who take thoughtful risks, engage in experiential learning, persist in problem-solving, embrace collaboration, and work through the creative process.”
Formal education has traditionally been approached by dividing information into individual and distinct subject areas. Although this division of knowledge into specific subjects/disciplines is supported by research, it detaches education from real-world situations. As education has been segregated in this way, knowledge gained by students has been dissociated, making students less effective at applying it in situations and to problems when needed.
Many education experts regard STEAM as an essential component of modern education. Why? According to the U.S. Department of Education, making STEM and STEAM a priority is paramount because “In an ever-changing, increasingly complex world, it’s more important than ever that our nation’s youth are prepared to bring knowledge and skills to solve problems, make sense of information, and know how [sic] to gather and evaluate evidence to make decisions.” STEAM education is the best way forward when it comes to enhancing the relevant, in-demand skills that will prepare students to be productive innovators and effective problem-solvers in the future. Not only does STEAM education help students learn how to think critically and develop creative solutions to problems, but it also prepares them to work because these skills can be applied in any field or industry. STEAM education allows educators to present subject matter in a way that also encourages students to learn how to learn, to understand when and how to ask questions, and to investigate and explore to find answers and solutions to problems.
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