What is STEM?

Updated April 27, 2021 | Staff Writers

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What is STEM?

A plant's stem grows from nurturing roots, and provides the support structure for the rest of the plant: its individual branches, leaves, flowers, and all the other parts that make up the whole of the organism. As a curriculum approach, STEM is similar. It stands for "science, technology, engineering and mathematics," and is the result of an interdisciplinary philosophy, applying a combined education in all four areas whereby related concepts overlap.

Where is STEM Taught?

With the escalating growth of related career opportunities, STEM education is expanding to cover the way its correlated fields are being taught in schools and colleges across America. Most major universities already incorporate a STEM-based approach to the hard sciences, combining practical and theoretical education to create a well-rounded pool of qualified and innovative science and technology leaders. Led by the Committee on STEM Education, the mission to expand the breadth and reach of STEM teaching to every educational institution is ongoing.

How is STEM Taught?

Fundamentally, the constituent STEM fields (the various physical sciences, technology fields, engineering, and all forms of mathematics) are taught comprehensively, but in sync, with overlapping concepts used to tie the instruction together. This method works best from a practical instructional standpoint, so STEM education is usually focused on projects, with many institutions allowing students to individually design and choose their own projects -- then figure out how to carry them to completion. This kind of hands-on educational methodology doubles as essential experience, further enhancing students' eventual workforce qualifications.

It is important to emphasize that STEM lessons are intended to focus on current, real-world problems. More and more frequently, news articles have described young students producing everything from a potentially safer battery to a revolutionary way of detecting cancer. These exceptional results are the consequence of accomplished students in STEM programs.

Why is STEM Important?

The STEM approach makes learning fun and interesting, as well as practical and functional, which makes it an effective tool for early childhood instruction. Later, as students begin to confront more complicated problems, the STEM approach helps them to understand what they're looking at -- by associating closely related concepts in a way that makes sense. A combination of the practical and the theoretical prepares students to cope with the challenges of an increasingly demanding world, one in which science and high technology are ever-present and continuing to advance. Such students are able to apply the skills they have learned, but are also prepared to continue their own education: they learn how to think outside of the box, how to innovate, and how to assume leadership positions in a field that rewards original thinking.

Would You Like to Know More?

STEM instruction is a growing field, by which students receive a well-rounded practical instruction in some of the most important correlated disciplines of our time. Many highly advanced and innovative government agencies, such as NASA, rely on STEM education to further their scientific and research missions. STEM is also vital to continuing innovation within the private sector, which has recently seen new initiatives in the hiring of women and historically underrepresented minorities.

Related Resource: The 25 Best Online Masters in Education Degree Programs

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