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BLOG: Curious what all the to-do over STEM and STEAM is about?

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Boy and girl building robots

Have you heard the buzzwords STEM and STEAM education recently? What are they, and how do they relate to our children’s learning and potential for long-term success?


This is an interdisciplinary approach to learning that combines rigorous academic concepts with real-world lessons in science, technology, engineering and math. Hence, the acronym of STEM. Private and public sectors report that 21st century workers require skills that many of today’s graduates don’t have.

Children who study STEM develop a variety of skills essential for long-term success, including critical thinking and problem solving, creativity and innovation, communication, collaboration and entrepreneurship. Careers in the STEM field include computer programming, financial analysis and advising, biochemistry, mechanical and environmental engineering, web and software development, and IT management, among others. 


With the addition of A for the arts, STEAM is a way to teach how all things relate to each other, in school and in life. It’s more fun than traditional learning styles and makes difficult-to-grasp concepts more digestible for all types of learners.

Just imagine being a child and learning about perimeter through dance lessons, relative density through a painting project, or light and sound engineering in a theater class. Creativity is among the Top 5 applied skills sought by business leaders, with 72 percent deeming creativity as highly important when hiring.

When we incorporate the arts with real-life situations, it encourages students to think outside the box, leading to a deeper learning and well-rounded, quality education. STEAM career pathways include architecture, medical illustration, virtual reality engineering, graphic design and animation, to name a few.

But as Richard Riley, U.S. secretary of education under former President Clinton, once said, “We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist … using technologies that haven’t yet been invented … in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.”

This is perhaps the true beauty, power and potential of a STEAM-infused education. 

Locally, Palm Beach County is rich in programs that are infused with the arts and sciences. For organizations offering STEM and STEAM learning, visit:

Trish Halverson is former manager of arts and cultural education for the Cultural Council for Palm Beach County. 

Art makes you smart: Art has a profound effect on the lives of young people and their educational experience. Students with an education rich in the arts have lower dropout rates and higher GPAs and standardized test scores. They also are four times more likely to participate in a math and science fair, three times more likely to win an award for school attendance and three times more likely to be elected to class office.


• Americans for the Arts (“10 Reasons to Support The Arts”)
• Institute of Education Sciences (“Champions of Change: The Impact of the Arts on Learning”
• National Endowment for the Arts (“The Arts and Achievement in At-Risk Youth”)


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