What does STEM mean to you? ASTE STEM Network Blog would like to know

The purpose of the ASTE STEM Network is to provide a forum for educators to share information related to the “STEM Education” movement.  The diverse educational environments across Alaska and the distances between them create an education system that can be rather fragmented.   Even within a single district teachers at one school may not know what is going on at the other schools in the area, let alone on the other side of the state.   This situation can foster diversity but also leads to much reinvention.  There are comparisons to be made to ecosystems and productivity.  In an ecosystem species diversity is important for genetic capital and long term survival but biomass production in a monoculture usually produces efficiency.  Whichever view you take, a forum to gather and disseminate information will be useful to provide holistic view of STEM in Alaska and improve communication amongst all the varied practitioners.

STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics and is usually used to refer to STEM fields or STEM education.  The disciplines listed are thought to be the most important to preserve our technological superiority over the rest of the world and the push toward STEM education is to provide for the observed deficiency in the number of workers that the US produces compared to other competitive countries in these areas.  The STEM Education movement finds its roots in the cold war race against the Soviets spurred by the launch of Sputnik in the 1950’s.  The current use of the STEM acronym has been going on for about 20 years and recently there have been various attempts to improve the outcomes of the STEM program, in particular to increase the percentage of underrepresented groups in the STEM fields.  Some of these improvements include trying to add additional disciplines to the list such as Art (STEAM), or Research, (STREAM).  Rather than anticipate what will be the next new acronym, ASTE has chosen to keep the STEM title for our network.  We recognize that STEM is more of a name for the idea of future productivity and that design, artistry, research, natural resources, and many others are all integral to this idea.

“We can do it, but should we do it” — With a focus on STEM and on the ability to produce new technologies we sometimes forget that there are ethical implications to any new ideas.  The world is a complex system and it is therefore difficult to predict what effect any new innovation or discovery might have on the entire system.   ASTE’s STEM Network recognizes the importance of the Humanities in a student’s education.  Perhaps we should have called it SHTREAM.  Alas, we are back to the complete education that we really desire to provide a path to an educated and productive citizen of the world.

If you are interested in joining the ASTE STEM Network please take a moment to enroll in the network and take our STEM interest survey. Then please join the discussion by adding a comment to this post.  What does STEM mean to you?


Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education: A Primer

Authors: Heather B. Gonzalez, Jeffrey J. Kuenzi

CRS Report for Congress, August 1, 2012

Dugger, William E. Jr.,  Evolution of STEM in the United States, 2010

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