Magazine article Momentum

STREAM 2.0: How We Got Here and Where We Are Going: A Brief History

Magazine article Momentum

STREAM 2.0: How We Got Here and Where We Are Going: A Brief History

Article excerpt

This past summer, NCEA held the New Directions Symposium at Neumann University in Aston, Pennsylvania. Nearly 250 educators from 27 states joined to learn, to lead and to proclaim the ongoing growth of the movement known as STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts and Math). Many of these attendees had been present at the 2014 STREAM Symposium in Dayton, Ohio. Others were new to STREAM, learning how it could fit into their schools and programs. As the experienced and the new enjoyed workshops by many expert practitioners, there was excitement, comradery and hope as they explored the vital (but sometimes confusing) world of STREAM.

STREAM (and its lay sisters STEM and STEAM) is an important transformative movement within Catholic education, but it can also be challenging to grasp and explain. This is not surprising, because it comes from a very convoluted pedigree, and only through understanding how we arrived here can we effectively move forward.

It All Started with STEM

In the beginning there was STEM, the prime acronym. STEM existed before there were STEM programs, or STEM schools (or even STEM T-shirts). However, despite its world-shaking power, at core STEM is only a list of subjects. Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, are not a direction or explanation any more than a list of ingredients is a recipe. Other educational movements that blended learning, differentiated instruction, even the flipped classroom, indicate by their name something about what they are. STEM sheds no such light on its implementation. Because of this, from very early on, educators developed two not incompatible, but different applications of the term, each with different implications for teachers and students.

The first is the literalist approach, where the answer is in the name. In this approach STEM refers to an emphasis on the subjects of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, which are assumed to be the concrete skills necessary for the modem world. This approach to STEM grew from frustration over poor test scores in math and science, and concern that the United States was losing its edge on the world stage. The focus of the literalist approach is more: more classroom minutes spent on these areas, more mandated courses and more subjects covered at an earlier level. STEM becomes a rallying cry for a reshaped curriculum.

The second approach is more relational between the listed subjects. While recognizing the importance of the STEM list, this approaches a more fundamental weakness of the educational system, the siloed approach to subjects. The nature and schedule of the school day encourage the teaching of subjects as discrete and independent of one another, taught at different times, often in different places, and by different people (most of whom have no awareness of what the others are doing). So students learn subjects, not knowledge, and this divide becomes more pronounced the longer a student stays in school. Math truths are math truths, science truths are science truths, knowledge is fragmented. The entire state of education can be found in the maddening (but understandable) question, "Do spelling and grammar count on this science paper?" STEM education seeks to break down the walls and develop instruction and assessment that integrates standards from multiple fields. …

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