STEAM? What’s in a name?

STREAM PLSS? It’s all about BALANCE!

I admit it – I am a swinger. An education swinger. You probably are too.

In my 34 years of teaching I realize I was constantly drifting in new directions every time the proverbial pendulum swung.

  • Whole language
  • Holistic learning
  • PBIS
  • Common Core Standards
  • Phonics based
  • Project Based Learning
  • Open classroom
  • New Math
  • BYOD
  • 1:1 Devices
  • Response to Intervention
  • EIT
  • Experiential learning
  • Flipped Classroom
  • STEM
  • STEAM
  • Maker Movement

We are continually jumping on the bandwagon of the next big thing. But at the recent ISTE Conference I saw this:

From STEM to STEAM to STREAM

And apparently there is some disagreement by those adding the R as to whether the R stands for Reading or wRiting, too!

So before anyone else decides to add any more letters I’ll see if I can coin the newest term. How about we change the whole thing to:

STREAM PLSS

Yes, I know you can’t pronounce it, but it gives you:

Science, Technology, Reading, Art, Math, Phy Ed, Languages, Social Studies

And you could actually say “STREAM PLUS”

Oh wait? Isn’t that just good education?

My daughter teaches in a wonderful STEM elementary school in Owatonna, Minnesota. Yes, they still have a terrific arts program. They have some very cool science, technology and math activities and workspaces, it’s true. But for them the addition of STEM really means providing collaborative opportunities, project-based activities, learning problem-solving skills, and teaching kids to question, to think critically and creatively. The process of learning is what STEM is all about. It’s not necessarily the subjects of science, technology, engineering and math, but the way people in those fields learn.

So why are we trying to add more letters into STEM? Because we’re pendulum swingers. If we jump on the STEM bandwagon we will soon be overtaken by the people jumping into STEAM, and then by those “doing STREAM”. It never ends.

Good education is like good health. There is no magic pill or diet alone that will give you good health. Overdoing any one exercise or overeating any one food is similar to what we do in education when we jump on board the next fad.

Jumping on board the next fad will wear you out and zap your energy. It will make you feel as though the job never ends and as if you’re never a good enough teacher.

Good education, like good health, means keeping a balance. It’s time to add the very best of STEM, as well as the very best of the trends that came before it, to our teaching. BALANCE is not an acronym for anything. It’s just good sense.

And that pendulum? Imagine that it’s a whirlpool. Rather than hanging on for dear life as it swings from one side to the other, imagine that the trends and fads in education spin around and around. Each time they come back to you (and believe me, teach long enough and they will!) take a look at it. Learn from it. Incorporate the best of what it has to offer. Then continue to meet your students at the door every morning and challenge them to learn all they can. You are the balanced teacher…and you’re doing a great job!

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