STEAM vs STEM: Key Differences You Need to Know for Your Child

When choosing the best education path for your children, knowledge is power. Read this article to learn about the key differences between STEAM vs STEM.

If you’ve been involved in any sort of educational system in the last five years, you’ve probably heard the word STEM used a lot. (No, we’re not talking about plants!)

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. STEAM, however, is a new acronym that introduces the field of art into the mix. 

So what does this new addition mean for educational philosophies? Read on to find out more about STEAM vs STEM and which one is right for your child. 

What Is the Difference Between STEAM and STEM?

When it comes to STEAM and STEM, there’s a significant amount of overlap. Both fields involve science, technology, engineering and math.

So what do STEAM and STEM look like in the classroom?

In STEM classrooms, the approach to learning is interdisciplinary and involves the application of basic scientific concepts to real-world problems. In other words, it prepares your child to apply the concepts they’re learning to solve problems that occur in the real world. 

STEAM classrooms have the same interdisciplinary approach, but also involve the liberal arts. That includes humanities, music, dance, visual art, theater, and even film-making. 

How Does Adding the “A” Change the Field?

Many people think that the A in STEAM was just added to be inclusive, but this definitely isn’t the case. In reality, STEAM takes the best parts of STEM and introduces them to even more fields to increase interdisciplinary learning and cooperation among fields. 

Take, for example, a sound engineer or producer. They’ll likely work with musicians on creative musical projects for the majority of their career.

However, at the same time, a sound engineer needs to have the proper background in physics to understand exactly how to make bands sound their best. This is a classic example of how STEAM applies to the real world.

The “A” in STEAM doesn’t just apply to traditional artistic fields like dance or music. It also applies to concepts like design, architecture, and aesthetics, all of which are important when it comes to product development.

For example, the newest model of a luxury car won’t just include a better engine; it will also include things like better speakers for music, smoother lines and details in the cabin, and a more attractive exterior look. Those innovations wouldn’t be possible without the “A” in STEAM. 

STEAM vs STEM: Pros and Cons

Clearly, STEAM and STEM are very closely related. So what are the pros and cons of STEAM vs. STEM? 

Pros of STEAM

STEAM curriculums have been considered revolutionary over the past few years. They take all of the best benefits of STEM and apply them to an even more diverse variety of fields. This means more potential career choices and options for your young student, as well as a more well-rounded education as a whole. 

Many people see STEAM as “STEM Plus.” The science, technology, engineering, and math still have a heavy emphasis but are now applied to an even wider range of possible circumstances. This increases children’s critical thinking skills and boosts their creativity. 

When it comes to training the leaders of our future, STEAM seems like a pretty steadfast choice.

Potential Cons of STEAM

While adding the arts to STEM has generally been effective, you also have to consider that when one thing is added to a curriculum, something else may possibly be eliminated to make room for it.

That means that adding the arts can potentially translate to less time devoted to science, technology, engineering, and math. While that’s probably OK at the elementary school level, students often begin planning their career path in high school.

If you have a child that’s positive they want to be an engineer, STEAM might end up forcing them to take unnecessary arts classes that won’t help them with their professional future. In a case like this, it’s possible that a STEM education would be more beneficial for your kid’s future. 

Pros of STEM

STEM was revolutionary for a reason! The focus on interrelationships between science, technology, engineering, and math has led to great strides and academic progress in higher education. 

It has also encouraged cooperation between the sciences, rather than competition, and led to innovations that may not have occurred otherwise.

For example, consider the collaboration between computer scientists and engineers when building the newest smartphone. By combining forces, STEM leaders are able to create more advanced materials and increase productivity in the sciences as a whole.

Plus, let’s not forget that without STEM, STEAM couldn’t exist. 

Potential Cons of STEM

There are some potential cons to STEM, too. While the sciences are the key to many aspects of our modern life (such as medicine, technology, and transportation), all innovations lead back to the same root purpose: human achievement. 

Ignoring the arts means ignoring skills like historical research, principles of balance and aesthetics, and general cultural understandings. While these skills may not be directly applicable to STEM, they do make a huge difference when it comes to applying STEM concepts to real life.

Which One Is Right for Your Child?

When it comes down to it, comparisons of STEAM vs STEM all come up positive.

Whether you choose to involve the arts in your child’s education or keep their focus solely on science, technology, engineering, and math, your child’s critical thinking skills and problem-solving abilities will increase significantly in these curriculums.

Both STEAM and STEM have a heavy emphasis on solving real-world problems, which is exactly what we should be teaching our children as they prepare for careers in the real world. Whether you choose STEAM or STEM for your child, remember that your child will be getting a great education either way. 

Looking to get your child enrolled in a STEAM-focused school?

Contact us today to learn more about how we’ve implemented STEAM curriculums right here in San Diego.