STE(A)M Education?

We’ll reward schools that develop new partnerships with colleges and employers, and create classes that focus on science, technology, engineering, and math – the skills today’s employers are looking for to fill jobs right now and in the future.

– President Barack Obama February 2013

FabLabs: The Ideal Vehicle for Implementing STE(A)M Curricula

The DNA of a FabLab is the embodiment of science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STE(A)M) education. Through a creative hands-on approach, FabLabs are the manifestation of all five fields intermingling under one-roof where real world applications are possible.

 

What is STE(A)M education?

STEM

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics and was coined in the 1990’s by Judith A. Ramaley, a former director of the National Science Foundation’s education and human resources division. This educational philosophy was swiftly adopted by numerous educational institutions to improve America’s competitiveness in the STEM fields and increase the country’s economic viability.

STE(A)M

STE(A)M adds the Arts component to STEM education and was developed by the Rhode Island School of Design based on the “belief that arts and design, in concert with fields like science and technology, will bring about the global innovation needed in the 21st century. STEM + Art = STEAM. The goal is to foster the true innovation that comes with combining the mind of a scientist or technologist with that of an artist or designer.”

Educate to Innovate

Years of research have taught educators that subjects should not be taught in isolation but rather integrated through a cohesive hands-on learning approach. Once it was acknowledged that the United States was falling behind in STE(A)M related fields, the Obama administration announced the 2009 “Educate to Innovate” campaign to motivate and inspire students to excel in STE(A)M subjects. This campaign also seeks to increase the number of teachers with the skills needed to provide effective STEM education. A model that best meets the needs and mission of the STE(A)M initiative are FabLabs.

 

How do FabLabs support STE(A)M education?

One of core tenets of STE(A)M education is to offer multi-disciplinary subject integration through a hands-on learning approach. FabLabs are the ideal settings to meet this need.

 

Blended Learning

One of the key distinctions that separate STE(A)M from traditional science and math education is the blended learning approach which demonstrates the inclusion of technology and its application to everyday life. It teaches students computer-mediated activities and 3-dimensional thinking focusing on problem solving and real world applications.

STE(A)M education can begin at the earliest levels and can be modified for every grade level up to higher education:

  • Elementary school — Focuses on the introductory level STE(A)M concepts and its applications to the real world. Students initial interests are piqued based on a curriculum that focuses on a realistic problem solving approach and exposure to technology.
  • Middle school — Begins to dive a bit deeper into the nuts and bolts of STE(A)M fields and occupations as students begin to explore areas of interest. The concept of career pathways is introduced to students to encourage the exploration of future professions so that they can begin to think about choosing the ideal High School that will best cater to their interests.
  • High school — The curriculum becomes more specific and challenging and the pathways more defined towards the fields and occupations of a student’s interest. There is a greater focus placed on what comes after High School whether it be a 2 or 4-year educational path or immediate employment in a related field. Emphasis is placed on bridging out-of-school opportunities for students of all disciplines.
  • Community College — One pathway is training students to be extremely proficient technicians on the equipment, technology, and computer applications of specified STE(A)M fields of interest and focuses on workforce development and job ready skills while creating a direct bridge to jobs. The other pathway is supporting students who intend to go on to a 4-year college. Enhancing general education and transfer courses through hands-on learning contextual exercises.

 

Since not all STE(A)M jobs require higher education or even a college degree there is an incredible opportunity for higher education schools to train students for a rapid acceleration into the workforce. Less than half of entry-level STE(A)M jobs require a bachelor’s degree or higher.