Book Review: From STEM to STEAM

Cover of From Stem to STEAM

Cover of From Stem to STEAM

I just finished most of From Stem to Steam by David A. Sousa and Tom Pilecki. I say “most” because I chose to skip parts that I didn’t think I’d get a lot out of. This is not a criticism of the book, it’s just that specific lesson ideas for elementary school or high school topics are not high on my priority list for lesson planning. But, I did scan those parts to see if any of the lesson topics were of interest (I night have found a couple and read those a little closer). I scanned them, but did not read every word and I suggest that that is a good way to read books, at least in some cases.

The authors do a good job of explaining why going from STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) is a good idea. The first couple of chapters lay the groundwork by providing justification for inclusion of the arts—encompassing drama, music and visual arts like painting, drawing and sculpture—into science and math lessons. Helpfully, they also suggest some ways to make contact with arts teachers, if you haven’t already, and perhaps make a start at collaborating with them. I have decided to join them for lunch a few times at the beginning of next year. If I can renew the book from the library where I got it, I think I’ll see if the drama teacher would be interested in borrowing it. I’ll spring it on her when we go see Pacific Rim together in July!

There are chapters on elementary, middle and high school that provide some well fleshed-out ideas on specific lesson plans. I focused on the middle school chapter since I teach 7th grade. I was pleased to learn that me and my teaching colleagues made some good strides in the STEAM direction all on our own last year. We could do more.

Following the grade level chapters, were chapters on science and math lesson ideas. As I went through them, I jotted down some notes on the ones that were relevant to my curriculum along with a few thoughts on how I could adapt their suggestions or incorporate some of my own to make the learning more dynamic, relevant, interesting, broad in scope and higher on Bloom’s Taxonomy, by incorporating the arts.

Overall, I got a lot of good ideas from reading From STEM to STEAM. The resources at the end are well worth checking out. Keep a notebook handy when you do. It didn’t take long to get through From STEM to STEAM and I think any science and/or math (but mostly science) teacher will stimulate their thinking by giving it a look. I haven’t gone into a lot of detail here on exactly what their lesson planning suggestions are, because that is the purpose of the book. If you are at all open to the notion that STEAM might be an improvement over STEM, then I recommend that you look for a copy at your local public or university library.

Admittedly I have been a little skeptical of the STEM to STEAM idea (especially STREAM—Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics). I mean if we keep adding letters to it, pretty soon we’ve lost the focus on STEM and we are back to good old “well rounded liberal arts education” which is a fine thing, but not STEM. After reading this book I am reassured that STEAM is in fact an excellent idea.