Susan Riley | February 2015

STEM vs STEAM and All the In-Between

In today’s On-Demand Video, I’m digging into STEM vs STEAM and everything in-between.  It is still shocking to me that people think the arts are only trying to put their fingers in the STEM pie by advocating for STEAM.  When I hear comments like this:

“I love the arts, but STEM is meant to get kids passionate about fields where we struggle to fill jobs”


“What possible purpose could the arts have for getting involved in STEM?  We don’t need more arts in the world economy – we need more scientists”

it boggles my mind.  Why is it that some educators, parents and even curriculum directors are looking for each content area to “stay in their lane”?  Shouldn’t we be encouraging our students to explore, connect, and experiment?  If so, that all involves hands-on learning that combines multiple subjects.

After all, our students don’t leave the schoolhouse, look at the sky and say because it’s blue that it’s art.  Or that a tree in nature is science.  Instead, when we look around our world, everything is beautifully inter-connected.  We do more harm by trying to keep each content in its own box than by getting messy and making purposeful connections.

What some fail to understand about the STEAM approach is that it is directly paralleled to the STEM process, and in fact takes STEM to a whole new level of meaning for students.  There are many gaps and misperceptions in STEM which hinder it from reaching its full potential.  The arts act as the missing code in the STEM DNA.

This video explores the distinctions between STEM vs STEAM, as well as how to work through the process when it’s appropriate.

I’d love to know: what do you think?  Do the Arts belong in STEM? Why or why not?

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