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You’ve heard of ‘STEM’ but what is ‘STEAM?’ Don’t miss the Energy Day Festival this week!

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You’ve likely seen or hear educators, parents and community leaders use the acronym STEM, but lately, people have been using the acronym STEAM – so what’s the added “A”?

Let’s start with the basics for those of us who aren’t familiar with STEM either: STEM is an acronym for “Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics,” and is frequently used when referencing these academic disciplines. STEAM, however, adds an “A” for “Arts.” STEAM was championed by John Maeda, former President of Rhode Island School of Design, whose argument for the importance of the arts in education points to the need for students to be creative thinkers, innovative and use design-thinking.

During young developmental years, data suggests that exposure to the arts can increase a child’s aptitude for grasping concepts like science, engineering, reading, and math. But STEAM isn’t just a bunch of subject areas thrown together, and it’s a 21st-century approach to learning. You probably had science and math in school as well, but STEAM focuses on infusing hands-on learning opportunities into schools, where students must work together in teams to find solutions for problems that involve science, technology, art, math, engineering, and computer science.

Why do we need STEAM in primary schools?

Bringing STEAM to students at an early age isn’t just about putting a computer in front of them or asking them to read e-books in place of hardcovers. Helping students to pursue STEAM educational tracks is about using creative lesson plans that allow for different learning methodologies that can be utilized while exploring augmented and virtual reality, the cloud and its capabilities, computer programming and more to help students develop vital skillsets for the future workforce.

Instead of opening up a textbook and explaining how circuits work to young 5th-grade students, a STEAM centered curriculum would instead suggest buying a pack of lemons, some alligator clips, a few small bulbs, and some zinc and copper nails and have students work together to build a circuit. During this hands-on approach, they will learn what a closed-circuit looks like, how positive and negative charges work, and about wiring and acidity. Don’t take my word for it, Microsoft Education has launched an entire line of these types of low-cost, hands-on STEM lessons for all grade levels and areas.

Studies suggest that as a society we cannot even imagine some of the careers that the students in 9th grade, 7th grade, and even 1st and 2nd grade will hold when they are our age because those job opportunities do not even exist yet. This is why it is imperative that we not only increase the opportunities to infuse current curriculum with innovative technology but that through those creative lesson plans we are teaching students critical thinking skills, problem-solving capabilities, communication, creativity, the ability to fail and to adapt to change. Moreover, STEM-related jobs are projected to grow 2x as fast every year compared to non-STEM jobs.

We should be introducing STEAM during early learning years through post-high school education to ensure future generations will have the tools to be successful in an increasingly global economy where nearly every career will require working with technology.

How Important is STEAM?

In the 2011 State of the Union Address, President Obama outlined the need for teaching 21st-century skills to students to become more competitive with other nations in the fields of STEM. During his time as President, he led a movement towards 100,000 new STEM teachers and project-based learning.

In 2017, President Trump launched an initiative to increase access to high-quality science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education and put $200 million in grant funds a year to ensure students are receiving this high-quality instruction.

Since then, many states have followed suit, creating entire computer science curricula, implementing state-wide learning standards, pouring millions into the professional development of teachers to train them on best practices in teaching computer science in their classrooms, and working with business and industry to identify and build programs that fill the gaps in our workforce.

To learn more about STEM and get your student involved in subjects that could lead to amazing career paths, or even if you want a fun, educational day out of the house – come down to Denver’s Energy Day Festival!

 Energy Day is a free, family-focused event that attracts students, educators, and families, showcasing real-world examples and interactive exhibits to highlight the fun students can have in their future careers if they used their classroom skills to pursue STEM education and fill Colorado’s workforce-ready pipeline.

 This year’s Energy Day Festival is Saturday, Sept. 28, at East High School, 1600 City Park Esplanade, where you can learn, listen to music, eat great food from area food trucks and enjoy time with your family and friends.

 Come out and celebrate this great day of energy education with Consumer Energy Education Foundation (CEEF) and Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA). For more information, visit EnergyDayFestival.org/Colorado.

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