STEM vs STEAM: Why the 'A' Makes A Big Difference

Find the difference between STEM and STEAM. Discover how Arts in STEAM shapes a more creative learning experience.

May 23, 2024

How is STEAM different from STEM? Join us as we look at these two schools of thought and the importance of including the ‘A.’

In the world of contemporary learning, you're likely familiar with the concept of STEM education. It might evoke images of robotics, computer labs, and scientific equipment, all set in a classroom straight out of a sci-fi movie.

However, let us introduce you to its magical cousin, STEAM — a newer, innovative approach to STEM, but with a spark of creativity added. Come with us on this journey to discover why the 'A' adds a splash of color to the STEM world.

So, What Is STEM?

STEM became a buzzword in the educational scene in the late '90s and early 2000s. It's an acronym that stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, aimed at preparing students to thrive in an increasingly dynamic and competitive job market.

STEM is all about the practical application of hard sciences. It involves subjects like applied mathematics, physics, information technology, computer science, and natural sciences. Its key aim is to encourage students to use their STEM skills in designing, problem-solving, and making scientific observations that mirror real-world situations.

Why Does STEM Matter?

Today's job market craves technical skills more than ever, and having a diverse skill set is a definite plus. As many jobs move online or become automated, some traditional careers have either disappeared or evolved so much that they require a whole new skill set. This is where STEM steps in, merging related subjects to equip students with skills for success beyond the classroom walls.

If you’re familiar with modern school curriculum, you’ve probably heard of STEM education. Just hearing the word might make you immediately picture robotics, computers, calculators, and microscopes, maybe in a laboratory-like classroom setting.

However, you may not be as familiar with STEAM, an innovative, newer version of STEM with an important added bonus! Let’s compare and contrast these two related education areas and find out why the ‘A’ makes all the difference!

What Is STEAM?

The pivotal difference between STEM and STEAM is the 'A,’ which stands for the arts. While the arts encompass a broad spectrum, STEAM zeroes in on humanities, such as literature, music, poetry, and art. The inclusion of the arts in STEM serves several magical purposes:

  • It empowers students to apply their science, tech, math, and computer skills in exciting new ways.
  • It encourages collaboration among students across a wide range of topics.
  • It sparks a flame in students to pursue what excites them, enhancing their learning engagement.
  • It highlights the interconnectedness of all subjects in STEAM, showcasing their real-world application.
  • It provides arts-inclined students with the skills they need to thrive in their chosen fields.

STEAM champions believe that integrating these subjects can help develop critical thinking skills and deliver a more holistic educational experience in a 21st-century context. It's education that goes beyond the classroom — it's education with a touch of magic!

The Magic of STEAM: Exploring the Possibilities

The world of STEAM curriculum is as diverse as it is intriguing. With an almost limitless array of applications, here's a sneak peek into what a typical day in a Primer STEAM classroom might look like:

  • Students might invent, design, and bring to life a musical instrument
  • Real-world problems might be solved using Legos
  • A documentary could be created using captivating drone footage
  • Famous structures might be replicated using just toothpicks
  • Budding musicians might write a song, record it, and learn how to share it on Spotify
  • Young authors could pen a short novel and master how to market it on Amazon
  • STEAM debates might occur, engaging students in current issues or topics using a range of STEAM-related subjects
  • Recycled materials could be transformed into useful tools
  • Local veterans might be interviewed, and their stories brought to life in a community film

When it comes to STEAM projects, the sky's not just the limit – it's the starting point. The key is to ignite curiosity, promote practical learning, impart meaningful experiences, and foster real-life connections. STEAM isn't just about teaching — it's about stimulating creative thinking.

Why Is The ‘A’ Important?

One of the reasons the 'A' in STEAM creates a whole new world of possibilities is that children learn in unique ways and are driven by diverse motivations. This can greatly influence their engagement in the creative process.

Some students might lean more towards the scientific, mathematical, and technological side of STEAM, caring more about the production aspect of an art project than the art itself. In contrast, others might be drawn by the arts component, viewing scientific concepts, math, and technology as tools to bring their artistic visions to life.

The magic lies in teachers reaching out to different types of learners at their level, connecting with their unique interests, and uncovering what truly motivates them. This can be a challenging feat in a traditional classroom setting with large student numbers.

However, at Primer, our focus on personalized attention helps teachers discover exactly what excites each student, offering an education that's not just one-size-fits-all but is instead tailored to fit each unique learner.

What Does STEAM Learning Look Like?

At the heart of STEAM learning is a boundless curiosity, a sense of wonder, and a yearning to unravel the world's mysteries. But what does this mean in practice?

Allow us to take you on a journey through five magical stages of the STEAM learning process at Primer:

Inquiry: Our learning adventure starts with a spark — a question or a problem that piques our student's interest. Guided by their teacher, they'll explore diverse areas to find a subject that captures their passion.

Exploration: Once a question or a problem is identified, our students embark on a quest for knowledge. They gather all the necessary information to grasp the full scope of their challenge. If they're plotting a spaceship journey to Mars, for example, they'll delve into the history of unmanned spacecraft missions.

Discovery: Armed with their newfound knowledge, our students continue their journey, conducting teacher-guided research to refine their project's details and gather all the necessary materials.

Creation: Here, imagination takes flight. Students craft solutions, answer questions, and add the final magical touches to their projects.

Presentation: In the final stage, our students share their journeys, presenting their findings or showcasing their experiences to their teacher, classmates, and even their families!

If it's not already clear, STEAM projects at Primer are comprehensive and designed to cover every fascinating aspect of a topic!

While it may sound very scientific, the 'A' in STEAM truly shines as students delve into creative challenges. STEAM education at Primer isn't confined to fine arts; it embraces visual arts as well as vital soft skills like interpersonal communication and collaboration.

How Does STEAM Work at Primer?

Though STEAM is a relatively new concept in education, its popularity is soaring. Traditional STEM programs are evolving, paving the way for a new era of STEAM education.

While larger schools with bigger budgets may offer STEM and STEAM programs, they often lack the essential teacher-to-student ratio that makes these programs truly impactful. This is where Primer Microschools come in.

We're proud to deliver top-tier STEAM education at our in-person microschools in South Florida, Jacksonville, Florida, and soon, Phoenix, Arizona. Our microschools offer the tailored attention children need to thrive, fostering a love for learning.

Our curriculum is infused with STEAM, giving students ample opportunities to apply their knowledge and make learning an immediate, engaging adventure.

Our school day is divided into two magical parts: In the mornings, students engage with core content in English language arts and mathematics. Every afternoon, they're free to follow their passions and interests through STEAM education.

Welcome to the world of Primer, where learning becomes a thrilling journey of discovery!

The Bottom Line

The essence of education isn't merely about passing the time — its power lies in having a meaningful purpose. The ideal educational realm is one that kindles curiosity, sparks inspiration, fuels excitement, and creates a magical atmosphere, enticing students to genuinely love their learning journey.

That's where the enchantment of STEAM education comes in. It opens a trove of opportunities for students to delve deeper into their interests and, more importantly, realize how they can weave these passions into their future lives and careers.

If this captivating world of STEAM education sounds like a dream come true for your children, and you envision an environment where their individuality is celebrated, nurtured, and propelled to success through personalized attention, it's time to unlock the doors of a Primer Microschool near you!

Learn more about our fresh, innovative, and magical approach to learning on our website.

Let's inspire your students to fall in love with learning and embark on a journey where they'll dream, explore, create, and discover!


What is STEM Education? | Live Science

Education for a Changing Workplace | Teachers College, Columbia University

Comparing STEM vs. STEAM: Why the Arts Make a Difference | UCF Online.

What is STEAM Education? The Definitive Guide for K-12 Schools | Institute for Arts Integration and STEAM

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