Susan Riley | June 2014

S-T-E-A-M: What’s the Connection? 2014 Connectivity Conference Preview

Editor’s Note: Today’s preview post is from Melissa Edwards, who will be presenting at this summer’s Connectivity Conference.  We hope you are as excited as we are to hear her session!

What is S-T-E-A-M?

(And I am not talking about the water vapor form or the cooking definition)
You would probably tell me that it is Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math.
A few years ago, I turned to twitter to ask a similar question:

“What is STEM? How do you explain it to someone? Different if they are in education or not?” Now there were some who gave me very “smart” answers:

  • @evmaiden: a stem is a part of a plant that supports the plant above soil
  • @web20classroom: Science Technology Engineering and Math. Is that a trick question? :)

I work or have worked with both of those individuals, so that was the answer they gave since they knew that it was me who was asking the question. Unfortunately, those two answers are probably very similar to ones most people would give. I was impressed (and very thankful) to receive so many great ideas to answer my question:

  • @eva_teach: Science, Technology, Engineering, Math – I am not sure how to define it, but I can describe it.
  • @bebener: STEM is a sustainable culture of learning…
  • @bebener: maths is the language of science, engineering optimizes technology…
  • @bebener: technology defines current reality, science creates new knowledge using technology
  • @jottingmatt: STEM: education focusing on connecting science, tech, engineering, and math. “Look at NASA…” is what I tell my non-edu friends.
  • @jottingmatt: STEM is also integrating TPCK model/concept into our everyday curriculum – for those of us in education.
  • @pressn4truth: The science community is aware of STEM. @FoxNews had a spot about it earlier.
  • @web20classroom: STEM is the preparing kids for jobs and a future unknown. It is a part of total learning experience. It is not THE learning experience.

When I was asked this question recently, I said that STEM was the critical and creative thinking/action that was involved with and in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. A person not in the education field stated that to him STEM was the basis for innovation and creative problem solving that can be applied to the 21st Century Global Marketplace.   The discussions we had around definitions seemed to boil down to skills such as:

  • critical thinking
  • innovation
  • creation
  • collaboration
  • communication
  • reflection
  • planning

As a person with a strong background in reading and art, the ideas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math were ones that I was not very interested in or felt I was not very good at (which is a bit odd considering my job now). Even though I may not consider myself very strong in those subject areas, I think I have strengths in many of those skills, which I think is just another indicator of the ways that all things are connected.

I also think the response from @eva_teach about knowing how to describe it but not define it seems to fit my thinking too. I wonder how or if these answers would be different if I added the Arts and changed my question to include STEAM instead? When I read the skills listed above, I automatically think of the Arts …   I wonder what connects the S to the T to the E to the A to the M in STEAM? Maybe you can help me find some connecting pieces I may have missed on my STEAM journeyJoin me at the Connectivity Conference as we explore this question …

Melissa W Edwards, Education ClosetAbout Melissa

There is creativity inside each of us, whether we realize it or express it …

Melissa Edwards’ experiences teaching 4th grade, motivating struggling readers, engaging gifted students, and working with adult learners along with her background in literacy combine to impact the resources she enjoys finding, learning about, and sharing!

Using various presentation methods and ideas, Melissa enjoys working with teachers to tap into that creativity and help students think critically, create, collaborate, and become lifelong learners.  Find out more at

About the Author

Susan Riley is the founder and CEO of The Institute for Arts Integration and STEAM. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, STEAM, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and STEAM education. Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter. Email Susan