STEM is an acronym for the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. In today’s competitive economy, more and more employers are searching for high-skilled workers with STEM-related skills: problem-solving, critical thinking, innovation, multi-tasking, and the ability to work collaboratively with a diverse group of colleagues. The NYC Department of Education's STEM Education Framework describes STEM education as a methodology that involves the study of science and mathematics, and the meaningful integration of technology and engineering to provide opportunities for innovative problem-solving. Younger students need experiences with engineering and technology if they’re going to succeed in our 21st-century world — a world that increasingly depends on these disciplines. The more we observe children, the more we realise that they have a natural knack for engineering but our conventional curricula dampen their ability and creativity, while the modern world requires problem-solving skills like basic literacy.
STEM education allows students to focus on authentic real-world challenges and problems using a five-step design thinking process. Students are not only involved in understanding perspectives, exploring possibilities, and thinking broadly but are also able to engage in sustained investigations through collaborative strategies. By presenting authentic experiences, students develop the four domains of learning:
Cognitive (associated with developing problem-solving skills)
Affective (relating to emotion and feeling)
Psychomotor (including expressing ideas through physical movement)
Conative (to do with striving and effort)
By incorporating STEM education into the regular curriculum, elementary schools are in the perfect position to foster in girls and boys, at a young age, an interest in these subjects that continues through to high school, college, and the workplace.