STEM vs. STEAM vs. STREAM: Attack of the Acronyms!

*As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. The price to you remains the same.

STEM, STEAM, or STREAM – which one should I be emphasizing with my child? What does each one even mean? Read on to learn more about each of these acronyms, as well as how their individual components can help foster unique skills in your child.

Related post: Introducing STEM Homeschool Curriculum

What does STEM stand for?

STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. These fields are lauded as the height of innovation and controlled creativity amongst many modern industries and are often studied together because of the interconnected relationships each discipline has with the other. 

It is important to teach children about STEM from an early age for a number of reasons. On the logistical end of the spectrum are reasons like a projected seventeen percent growth in careers in the STEM field. On the other, somewhat less measurable end of the spectrum are reasons that speak to the way that STEM teaches children to think at a greater depth than many other subjects are capable of. 

How can I use STEM in my classroom?

To this end, it is important to utilize STEM within any classroom. Because STEM activities rate high in their ability to foster a growth mindset, any time you spend on STEM in the classroom will yield high-impact results as your students become more self-efficacious. 

Even humanities teachers can utilize STEM in the classroom by issuing challenges based on the books they are reading. We’ve seen teachers challenge students to design Trojan horses after reading The Odyssey, or map out full-scale replicas of Juliet balconies from Romeo and Juliet. The sky is truly the limit when brainstorming ways to integrate STEM across disciplines. For more ideas about bringing STEM into the classroom, check out this bank of blog articles. 

How can I use STEM at home?

You will love using STEM in the home because of its ability to captivate your children with self-directed, time-efficient projects. Rather than the quick, easy activities that have your kids asking for a new activity within ten minutes, STEM activities always have a layer of challenge to keep your kids’ brains running! 

While this list of STEM activities contains articles for parents and educators alike, feel free to browse for what works for you. We especially love engineering design projects–because these teach children to innovate within constraints in order to create a solution, they’ll keep your child going for hours! We especially love cardboard challenges. In such challenges, children are asked to leverage everyday material, cardboard, to create something new and uniquely functional. 

If you are feeling particularly motivated, you can encourage your kid to join the Global Cardboard Challenge! Launched in response to Caine’s Arcade, the Global Cardboard Challenge was launched to foster innovation in children and has become so large that it is sponsored by the likes of Ozobot and Disney. In these such challenges, groups of children select a theme (arcade, inventions, etc.) and create the best prototype that they can. Ideally, their inventions are fully functional and children can show them off to their friends! 

What does STEAM stand for?

What does STEAM stand for?

Although you likely know what four of the letters in this acronym stand for already, we won’t keep you guessing. STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics. This model incorporates all of the rigor and learning of STEM, but with the addition of artistic thinking. 

Proponents of this more integrated model argue that brain development is positively impacted by art. They further assert that because arts education offers a different lens through which to view the world, it can only serve to broaden the mind of future scientists and offer them a variety of ways to evaluate complex situations. 

How can I bring art into STEM in the classroom?

A wealth of ideas exists regarding how to bring art into a more technical education. Some teachers choose to integrate art by having students use clay to build replicas of the organisms they are learning about while still others utilize music to teach the way that sound waves travel. 

Ultimately, when we find additional ways for students to synthesize their knowledge, we are offering ways for them to build additional connections in their brains. A student who is asked to look at a science concept through an artistic lens is being asked to shift their understanding to a different type of work product, which gives them an additional way to remember unfamiliar concepts. 

Leonardo da Vinci was famously quoted as saying, “I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.” In this call to action, da Vinci tells us (and our students) the importance of pushing ourselves to create final products. Da Vinci’s work is a great study in the apex of science and art, and a great springboard for how science can be used to enrich art, and vice versa. 

How can I bring art into STEM at home?

There are basic ways to bring art into STEM at home. If you’re feeling a little hesitant at first, consider asking your children to start small. They can keep a nature journal or draw observations of the moon as it changes over time. 

If you’d like to attempt larger projects but are looking for more of a curated outlet through which to do so, check out our article on monthly STEM subscriptions to find the best STEM subscription box for your kid. One of our favorite STEAM options is the Green Kids craft box, which includes science articles and premade craft projects for your children to engage in every month. No planning on your part with all of the fun on the part of your children! 

Once you’re feeling ready to dive in, you can go so far as to create animal habitats for all of the creepy crawlies your little one is bringing home. You can create circuitry art. You can even study color theory using the scientific method–we’ll definitely want to see your end creation if you try this one! 

What does STREAM stand for?

What does STREAM stand for?

How is STREAM different from STEM and STEAM?

While STEM is simply science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, and STEAM is science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics, STEAM is science, technology, reading, engineering, art, and mathematics. This new emergence takes all of the technical skills of STEM, the artistic genius of STEAM, and integrates the newfound introduction of reading and written communication skills. 

Keep kids engaged and learning with STEM boxes!

Keep the kids learning and having fun with engaging activities. No need to brainstorm ideas or hunt for materials – it’s all done for you!

Get a STEM box delivered to your door for hassle-free kids activities. View our guide to the Best STEM Subscription Boxes available in 2020!

At the end of the day, if we are raising future scientists who know how to analyze at a deep level, but do not know how to communicate their findings to the world around them, we are doing very little. It is critical that we teach our future scientists, technology workers, engineers, and mathematicians how to interact with their broader world through the written word.

Furthermore, STEM fields are ever-evolving. This means that anyone entering such a field will need to be adept at researching as their field grows and develops. A strong reader is able to quickly skim a new article and get to the crux of the issue at hand–this saves them time and ensures that they are able to quickly get the information they need in order to move forward. At the end of the day, it’s simple: good readers make good scientists. 

How can I bring reading and writing in STEM in the classroom?

There are a variety of ways to support literacy in the science classroom. The first, but often overlooked method is simply reading to learn. Allow your students to introduce themselves to new material by bringing a selection of articles with which they can evaluate a new concept. 

Once students begin reading at a heavier volume, you can begin incorporating reading instruction in the science classroom. After all, many standardized science tests are well-disguised reading assessments! Model reading a science article to your students, including the vocabulary that you highlight and the notes that you take. Use science articles as an opportunity to review the main idea and supporting details. Integration tactics like this allow your students to grow in reading while having a secondary means to digest science concepts: a win-win! 

How can I bring reading and writing in STEM at home?

Reading and writing in science at home can often look a lot like talking. By moving through a variety of science concepts using oral language, children are exposed to new vocabulary and given the opportunity to practice utilizing it.

Ever hear “I’m bored”?

We’ve created the Ultimate Boredom Buster – 101 Ideas for Kids Who Are Bored!

To grab your FREE PDF copy, click here now!

Once your child is confident using this language, move into allowing them to dictate their writing to you, or into having them write their own work, depending on age. Consider taking them on nature walks and creating written reflections, or even writing letters to grandparents communicating all of the fabulous experiments that the two of you are doing together at home! 

Additionally, consider asking your child to research what they are learning about. For littles, this can look like taking picture notes on read alouds or listening to audiobooks to learn new information. For bigger children, this can look like a more standard research model. The more we encourage our children to find information themselves, and subsequently derive their own meaning from the information they are finding, the more flexible their thought will be as they grow into adulthood.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is science education important?

Quality science education is imperative for children of all ages. The University of Texas states it best by telling us that, “teaching science to students is teaching them how to think, learn, solve problems, and make informed decisions.” In other words, a student with a quality science education is a student who knows how to think deeply and thoroughly, no matter the content at hand. 

When did STEAM emerge?

The choice to add arts to science education has emerged only recently. Some experts point to 2015 while some feel that this transition was made a little earlier. Regardless, proponents of adding arts to science education are quick to state that the addition of arts often introduces layers of meaningful collaboration that would not otherwise be present. Additionally, the choice to add art to content has the power to engage female participants at a higher number–because we should all be committed to closing the gender gap in science, we should all be interested in adding layers that will help little girls remain invested in their science education. 

When did STREAM emerge?

While STEM truly became a well-known term in 2006, STREAM did not emerge until closer to 2016 or 2018. Dr. Azi Jamalian has been quoted as saying that, “Incorporating design, art, and reading into STEM is a way for anyone, regardless of their technical ability, to be exposed to STEM in a highly impactful and engaging way. It should be accessible,” she says, “to everyone, no matter what their background, gender, or comfort level with technology is.” Ultimately, adding more venues through which people can interact with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, can only serve to increase participation in the field. This increased participation and diversity can lead only to good things, such as increased efficiency and innovation. 

Kaitlin Anselmo
Latest posts by Kaitlin Anselmo (see all)