STREAM? Why not STREAMMSSFLPE?

Full disclosure. I am a former social studies teacher. I have also taught math and engineering. I dabble in computer science with my students as well.

Textbook with highlighter and glassesI recently was invited to a webinar that was focused on STREAM education. Many are familiar with STEM and STEAM. But STREAM was new to me. The second part of the title of the webinar was “R for reading.” Reading. We have to add reading to acronyms for education. When did reading leave the classroom? Did we start to focus so much on science, technology, engineering, and math that reading was left out of our schools!

I understand the initiative to bring more focus to the science, technology, engineering, and math curriculum. Especially when we are forecasting jobs of the future to be reliant on those skills, along with problem-solving, creativity, collaboration, and communication. Reading should be baked into everything that we are doing in our classroom and our schools. It is fundamental to achieving everything else in our classrooms.

Math Equations on Chalk BoardIf we are going to add reading to our STEM or STEAM initiatives, then why not add music, social studies, foreign language, physical education, and everything else that we teach in our schools? STEAMMSSFLPE. Even with a focus on stem education, reading should not have gone away from our classrooms.

I understand with the A in STEAM, but if we continue to add letters to STEM it will lose its purpose. If we are to really begin to focus on bringing awareness to our STEM skills, we need to ensure that we keep it simple with acronyms. STEM is fine the way it is. STEM does not say, “do away with all other subjects.” STEM is just a focus. We can’t lose sight of the other subjects as we want to have well-rounded students that really can read, write, communicate, create, think critically, and collaborate to be successful in the economy we believe is coming.

 

4 Comments

  1. Many years ago, in the “School Improvement” world of the education universe, I was introduced to a maxim: “If we focus on everything, we’re focusing on nothing.” I totally understand the perception (if not the offense taken) by some teachers that STEM or STEAM or whatever seems to leave them out of the loop, as though their subject area isn’t as important.

    This development comes, I fear, from a misplaced emphasis on the content over the student. My son was on his way to becoming a “casualty” of this line of thinking. He had been labelled (since Kindergarten) as being at-risk of not reading at a third grade level by the end of third grade. The prescribed treatment? He would get an extra 45 minutes per day of reading instruction. Sounds good, right? Except, those 45 minutes would be spent solely with other struggling students, while the on-track students would be in science and social studies classes. My son would be removed from science and social studies, even though he loves science and does his best reading in books about Native Americans. The opportunity to use his love of science and social studies to bolster his motivation to improve his reading skill would be squandered.

    We have elevated subjects over strategies. When we identify a deficit in education, we emphasize or re-prioritize subjects, rather than taking a good hard look at strategies and techniques. Reading is not solely a subject. It is a strategy (or, really, a collection of strategies) that opens up worlds of learning.

    I tell teachers often in PD sessions… even if you don’t teach English, you probably teach IN English, so your students’ proficiency in reading and writing profoundly affects their performance in your class.

    • Thank you for the feedback. It is kind of like in football when a team has two quarterbacks, they really have no quarterbacks.

      I was more upset when the Common Core came out and Social Studies was left out than when people introduced STEM initiatives. In both circumstances, I looked for ways that I could CCSS and the STEM philosophy could come into my classroom rather begrudge the system and how social studies is treated. I brought in more publishing and writing into my social studies class. I brought in more problem solving and critical thinking into my social studies class. I focused on what STEM was trying to do rather than what the acronym stands for.

      I can speak to similar circumstances that you son almost experienced, but I wonder why, especially with an emphasis on non-fiction reading comprehension, more social studies and science texts are used for those readings or why that connection is not being made by more teachers. When students miss those subjects, middle-level teachers are left with a burden to make up for in time for state examinations. The real world isn’t in a silo, nor should our educational subjects be.

      Finding ways to incorporate more cross-
      curricular opportunities would benefit all students. As educators, we should be pushing, especially from an early age, that subject lines are easy and should be crossed. I started volunteering with our FIRST Tech Challenge FIRST Robotics team and must really applaud the FIRST organization for the way that they are trying to create well-rounded young students through the different challenges that they have. I think more classroom educators might be able to benefit from that style of thinking.

  2. Thank you for saying what I have been thinking!! We cannot keep adding letters, or we will just end up with what we already have. Focusing on increasing participation in one area doesn’t mean other areas are automatically forgotten or left behind. It’s like argument for the movement for Boys in STEM — because apparently Girls in STEM is gaining too much ground. (idk…) Unfortunately, though, that is the climate and culture of our current society. Hopefully, we can continue to stay focused on what truly matters.

    • That’s so true! While I haven’t experienced that “Boys in STEM” argument, I have seen that same logic manifest itself in many different areas of our society and in my building on different topics, like disease awareness. Thank you for reading!

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