What is STEAM Education? Here is your Ultimate Guide

STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math. STEAM education refers to an integrative and interdisciplinary approach that places practical skills at the forefront of all educational endeavors, with an emphasis on hands-on learning. This acronym is based on the five fields that prop up human progress as we know it today, while focusing on creation and real-life application.

Traditionally, education has been “learning-based”, as opposed to STEAM education that is “doing-based”. In a practical and hands-on manner, this approach prepares kids for jobs that actually exist, while acquiring skills that will truly serve them and their society. The exciting development of the term STEM into the newer term STEAM (with the added “A” for art), clearly shows that art is considered an important and inseparable part of education. This is especially crucial for kids, with an emphasis on early education.

The Bridge Example

STEAM education is based on the understanding that these five fields cannot be separate, and should not be viewed as such. One way to illustrate this point is the bridge example. A bridge is not “just” about science, technology, engineering, art OR math. It’s a combined and multifaceted understanding, which is very much in line with how reality should be viewed and analyzed. Life is complex, and viewing it through this new integrative lens is a much healthier and more effective way to learn about the world. If we use our example of the bridge, and view it through the lens of STEAM education, we will find that:
  • Science helps us understand what materials the bridge is made from, and how these interact with the elements.
  • Technology dictates the sizes and angles of the beams, arches, trusses, and suspensions for the bridge to support its weight over time.
  • Engineering is able to help us understand the perfect balance between suspension and compression, for the bridge to not buckle or snap.
  • Art helps us realize what this bridge symbolizes, what connection it truly makes for society, and how it is viewed and visually accepted.
  • Math calculates the various forces involved, as well as dimensions, weight, and angles for a sound structure.
Now ask yourself the following questions:
  1. Is any of these less important than the others?
  2. Can the essence of a bridge be fully understood without one of these elements?
  3. Can the topics of STEAM truly be separated when building a bridge?
Your answers will demonstrate the new and utterly positive direction education is taking. The new rules of the game are integrative understandings, learning in line with life’s true complexities, and the realization that these crucial disciplines have to go hand-in-hand.

Art in STEAM Education

Art is an inseparable part of scientific, technological, engineering, and math philosophies. Not only is art of paramount importance for our children’s self-discovery and excellence, but it also breaks down the walls and old stigmas that separate the STEM topics into four neat boxes in an artificial way, and classify us along with them. Some examples:
  1. Someone who is convinced that they are not creative because they are good at math might find a new path after embracing the path of STEAM education.
  2. STEM toys that were traditionally marketed more to boys, will be more open to both genders due to the introduction of art. Through a STEAM approach, girls may feel more comfortable going for engineering, and boys may feel more comfortable opting for art.
  3. Someone artistic who believes that math or engineering are not compatible with their creative minds, could gain a renewed chance through STEAM education.
STEAM breaks down the walls between these fields and among ourselves, to truly capture the essence of an ultimate and all-encompassing philosophy of education.  
STEAM education framework (Source: STEAMedu.com)
STEAM education framework (Source)
The famous Italian polymath and one of the greatest painters of all time, Leonardo da Vinci, was well ahead of his time in too many ways to count. He famously said:
“Principles for the Development of a Complete Mind: Study the science of art. Study the art of science. Develop your senses – especially learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.” When it comes to a historical example of STEAM application, and the true depth and inseparable nature of the element of art, Da Vinci is always the go-to example. In his art, the fields of STEM where very prominent. Here are some examples:
  • Technology: his inventions included a bird-like “flying machine” which set the foundation for the modern airplane
  • Math: he used the Golden Ratio in the Mona Lisa,
  • Engineering: first concepts for helicopters and cranes
  • Science: the human anatomy
  • Summing Up

     In a famous study conducted, it was shown that almost all Nobel laureates practice a form of art alongside their scientific achievements, including dance, painting, acting, poetry, and more. The reason STEAM education has been gaining such traction and wide acceptance over the past few years is due to the deep understanding that art captures the essence of creative thought, which is an absolutely essential skill for problem solving – the very heart of STEM fields. Incorporating art into our kids’ education creates an all-encompassing, well-rounded, and truly interdisciplinary approach that mirrors real life, promotes free expression, and most importantly – creates self-fulfilment.

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