Everywhere you turn, STEM- mania has set in. Most educators are familiar with the acronym, but many have questions: Why is STEM education important?
Is it for all students, or just for math- and
science-oriented students? Can it improve my
teaching? Is this just one more add-on to my
already packed curriculum?
Everything Has a Beginning
The concept of STEM—for science, tech-
nology, engineering, and mathematics—was
introduced in the 1990s by the National
Science Foundation. Not long after its intro-
duction, we Americans learned that The
World Is Flat (Friedman, 2005) and that our
students were going to be left behind in the
globally competitive marketplace because
many other countries were out-STEMming
us. Government and private funding began to
flow toward all different types of STEM edu-
cation programs, and today STEM has come
to be recognized as a meta-discipline—an
integration of formerly separate subjects into
a new and coherent field of study.
STEM is not a curriculum (although there
are STEM-focused curriculums, such as Engi-
neering Is Elementary and Project Lead the
Way). It does not replace state standards, nor
is it meant to be a quick fix for our education
problems. Rather, STEM education is an
approach to learning that removes the tradi-
tional barriers separating the four disciplines
and integrates them into real-world, rigorous,
relevant learning experiences for students
(Vasquez, Sneider, & Comer, 2013).
STEM education isn’t just one thing—it’s a range of strategies
that help students apply concepts and skills from different
disciplines to solve meaningful problems.
Jo Anne Vasquez