Understanding the Basics of STEM Education

Understanding The Basics Of STEM Education

What is STEM Education?

With all the acronyms that determine hundreds of different areas of education, it is easy to confuse them all. Since 2001, the letters STEM have been a normal part of educational vocabulary.

The acronym STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. This program was started by Judith A. Ramaley, the former director of the National Science Foundation’s education and human-resources division. This approach to education is designed to revolutionize the teaching of subject areas such as mathematics and science by incorporating technology and engineering into regular curriculum by creating a “meta-discipline.”

There is more; STEM Education attempts to transform the typical teacher-centered classroom by encouraging a curriculum that is driven by problem-solving, discovery, exploratory learning, and require students to actively engage a situation in order to find its solution.

Integration of Curriculum

The four parts of STEM have been taught separately and most of the time independent from each other for years. By adopting the STEM philosophy Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics all play an integral part in the teaching of the whole. The science, engineering, and mathematics fields are made complete by the technology component that provides a creative and innovative way to problem solve and apply what has been learned.

Many STEM education program participants are using highly specialized professional applications at very early ages. Programs that are usually reserved for college-level classes such as computer animation and CAD programs are being implemented in high school classrooms across the country as part of the STEM education initiative.

Benefits of Program

Since its implementation, critics have questioned the program’s ability to teach all students equally. This argument is a difficult one to hold, since it has been proven that the education system in general has been tailored to the needs of female students over the past twenty-five years in its focus on verbal concepts.

All students benefit from the STEM program because it teaches independent innovation and allows students to explore greater depths of all of the subjects by utilizing the skills learned; these skills are going to be required in order for today’s students to be tomorrow’s global leaders. All jobs are requiring workers to have a greater ability to think critically, work as a member of a team and independently, and close the performance gap between our American students and those being produced in other countries.

Our Role and Responsibility

In recent years, there has been a significant decline in the number of college students choosing majors in science or technology related fields. Much of this has to do with poor preparation for the classes during high school and the intense work required outside of the lecture setting in places like laboratories. Students have chosen easier majors and courses of study in place of taking on the fields that they wanted to enter due to poor preparedness. If the graduation rates continue with this trend, there will be a workforce shortage in areas of engineering and science fields.

The United States needs to be more competitive and build new standards for our students. The National Science Foundation “estimates that 80% of the jobs created in the next decade will require some form of math and science skills.” In order for our children to see the advancements in their generations that we saw in ours, it is important that they have a well-balanced education that includes STEM elements, as well as, traditional classes in the Arts. STEM education is designed to teach the “whole” student and in turn will make them more successful members of society.

Article by Dr. Patricia Fioriello at ExpertBeacon.com – Help your child succeed in a STEM education program at school.

STEM School Education Resources

STEM Education Statistics to Share with Skeptics
3 Ways to Explore STEM Education Research
Where to find STEM Grants for Schools
STEM to STEAM — Recognizing the Value of Creative Skills in the Competitiveness Debate
STEM Education
2 Excellent Free Online Education Resources for STEM Educators

Websites and Videos

Connect a Million Minds
Science is Rock and Roll
My Robot is Better Than Your Robot


understanding the basics of stem education


  1. Sharon says

    Thank you for explaning the reasoning behind the STEM education project. It makes sense on many levels. As a parent of two elementary students I believe it will enhance their ability to apply science and math to real life.

  2. Dr. Patricia Fioriello says

    Hello Sharon,
    There are many individuals who do not understand the meaning of STEM education – and this also includes educators! Rather than have people feel uncomfortable or not be able to participate in progressive curriculum and ideas, DRPF Consults feels it is best to start with the basics. A clear understanding of the foundation of a program can go a long way. Glad to hear the article helped you know the basics of STEM education and therefore, better support the education of your children especially in the math and science areas.

  3. Maryann says

    I am very interested in the STEM program. I have been woking towards implementing something like this in the elementary grades, using technology as a catalyst. I see that Pears Publishers have just come out with a digital science program that has STEM activities for grades k through 5.

  4. Adrianna Dimperio says

    I am currently pursuing a graduate degree in education, specifically an MS in Occupational and Technical Studies with a concentration in Community College Teaching. In the two courses I am taking now (one being a curriculum design course), I am focusing on the development of a STEM curriculum at the community college level, perhaps a STEM 1 and STEM 2 course. In my research, I’m finding that there are not many, if any, community colleges that offer a focused STEM program for the purposes of their students transferring to a 4-year institution to pursue engineering or a science major. I’m curious as to whether you are aware of the existence of such a course at a community college.

    My background is in engineering. I have a chemical engineering undergrad and have worked as an environmental engineer for the past 10+ years. I have decided to change careers and pursue my passion for teaching. I’d like to bring a dedicated STEM program to my local community college system.

  5. Dr. Patricia Fioriello says


    Great idea but unfortunately you are correct. There is not as much out there regarding STEM curriculum at the community college level although we believe that work is being done in these areas but because of funding and K-12 focus, the work may not be identified as STEM. Some community colleges are working on projects that are aligned to current high school STEM programs. Here are a few resources addressing the collaboration between high school and community college regarding STEM programs.

    http://www.dccc.edu/programs-study/stem-hot-jobs/what-stem, http://www.chaffey.edu/brochures/STEM.pdf

    Perhaps readers know of additional resources?

  6. Danica Millner says

    Hello Dr. Fioriello,

    I am looking for resources that will help me integrate STEM education in my chemistry class. My dilemma is being able to give the students enough time to solve the problems, while covering the state standards before the Virginia End of Course assessment. For my first project, I would like to focus on biofuels and have the students actually make the fuel for the final product. Any resources, advice, and any additional ideas will be appreciated.

  7. oldgma says

    STEM is GREAT. I work in afterschool programs which was the only way the children I worked with got science & technology for several years. My only concern is that we are forgetting a very important aspect in our kids education…socialization. I am a BIG fan of internet, but I do see that many of our kids are lacking in social skills. I work under a grant that requires I show that each activity is education based, but social skills is not under any catagory. For all the technical education we are teaching, without social skills our children will still fall behind.

  8. Natalie says

    I am a teacher in an early childhood education program. We are wanting to implement STEM into our classrooms. What advice would you give on how to start doing this? The children are ages 6 weeks to 5 years.

  9. Joan Jean D. Chan says

    I am a special education teacher here in the Philippines. This is the first time I have heard about STEM. I wonder how we can also use it in teaching our special kids in school. I am actually handling the visually impaired,2 children with autism, and children with multiple disabilities.I know we can also adopt it in special ed, please give me an advice to how to start things. Thanks so much.

    Joan Jean Chan

  10. says

    Before students can become interested in STEM, they need to be MOTIVATED to want to learn. One of our 21st Century CLC clients in Lincoln, NE asked us to come up with a concept for a STEM/Arts camp – combining both science and the arts. We have a brand new script called “The Inventive Inn” with characters like Dr. Robert Goddard, Marie Curie, Sir Isaac Newton, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington Carver, etc. The camp is highly interactive and truly motivates kids to WANT to learn about science, technology, etc.

    For detailed info about our program, just email us at kidsplay@pacific.net

  11. says

    I am Principal of a girls’ school in Australia with a Middle School STEM program. I would like to visit some schools in the US who are working with STEM programs in Middle and Upper schools with girls in particular. I would love to know of some schools that have strong STEM programs. Can anyone assist me?

  12. Terrie says

    Robyn, look at the following website: http://www.ncsssmst.org/. The National Consortium for Specialized Schools of Mathematics, Science, and Technology site can provide a list of member schools. You should be able to find several to contact for a visit.

  13. Barbara Gosney says

    I have a question. I am a special resource teacher K-6. I have taught and supported all subjects for K-12th grades in my 18 years of teaching. In the past 3 years, I have acquired a passion for STEM education with the after school programs I have implemented. I began this venture with attendance at the Mickelson Exxon Mobil Science Academy for two summers. I then implemented after school programs since then most recently an after school program teaming with the NASA Explorers School. I LOVE IT!! Now my students want to be astronauts, engineers, and scientists!!! I am also acquiring my doctorate in ed. leadership with my dissertation on STEM education and best teaching practices. I have offered professional development opportunites and am presenting at the 2012 Space Education Educator Conference. Now my question is — I have been denied professional development opportunities with the Sally Ride Science Academy due to my district’s view that my school isn’t a “STEM SCHOOL”. I didn’t realize that there were “lines drawn” when it came to STEM education. Your thoughts on this?? I find this very frustrating to say the least.

  14. Dr. Patricia Fioriello says

    Not sure what happened but two comments disappeared before we were able to post them.

    from Elisabeth

    I am a director at the district office in the Portland, OR metropolitan area. I am looking to develop a curriculum and instruction plan that integrates technology. I am looking for professional development resources/conferences to train teachers in the use of new technology and how to use the new technology to integrate science, tech, engineering and math into the curriculum.
    Do you know of any upcoming conferences in the Pacific Northwest that would be worthwhile to send a select group of teachers?

    from Gazero

    If our school district implemented Lego Robotics as a class, or at least used the First Lego League model, wouldn’t that be STEM education? Currently, there is usually one robotics team at a school limted to 10 members. So many more children could benefit if it was offered as a class. I recently retired, but,have a passion about this and would like to present it to my district. (As a robotics coach for 6 years, I certainly found it to be real world learning that involved problem solving, science , technology and math.) What are your thoughts?

  15. katherine zachary says

    I have been hearing alot recently about the STEM program. Not much cooperation in my daughters high school. She was placed on an advanced math track in 7th grade and now will be entering 10th grade needing an AP Calculus class as her next level math class. The school says the class is only being taught by one teacher and it is full. She will have to wait one full year to take Calculus. I am beyond upset. My local board of education has been absolutely no help. So disappointed in our school system. Any ideas where I might get some help would be greatly appreciatied.

  16. says

    The positive thing happening with STEM initiatives is that they are emerging in districts all around the country. The negative side with these new programs is that the interpretation and implementation of STEM classes vary greatly from district to district. In fact differences can be seen in schools in the same district that share the same implementation plan. Some districts feel that by just allowing or monitoring girls participation in traditional male subjects is sufficient or a start to being called a STEM school. Other districts see STEM as a way to improve curriculum in science fields even at the elementary level. It may take time for your district to fully understand and create buy in regarding their vision for STEM programs.

    It is also possible that the school does not have an overall vision and agreement of the way to approach STEM education. This would be a starting point. To encourage the board to establish clear goals regarding the philosophy of STEM programs in schools. Push for the school to have in writing a plan that addresses the implementation of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in the curriculum and commitment from staff and the school community to support these efforts.

    With all this being said, the truth is it may take time and unfortunately things do not happen overnight. This can be frustrating especially when you have an issue that needs to be addressed now.

    You may need to reach out to outside organizations and programs to learn more about STEM education and the involvement of girls in these type of programs. Often there are extracurricular activities and teams that your daughter can participate in. For example, robotics education is the rave right now and teams are being created at many middle and high schools. Here is an article to give you more information – http://drpfconsults.com/start-a-robotics-education-team-and-teach-the-value-of-competition/. This is just one example.

    There is also a website that addresses women and STEM – http://www.steminist.com/. It is very informational and more for adults but also you can share with your daughter the endless possibilities that are out there for her after high school. Another site designed for students and one that your daughter (and you) would like is http://www.girlstart.org.

    Now getting back to the issue of the class which I have not forgotten about! It also appears this situation may be more about class availability and the school master schedule. Although AP Calculus enters the area of STEM for girls it also is a course offering and falls under this category. The question here is how are students accepted in AP classes, what are the requirements and what is the selection process. Is there a cap on the number of students and an attempt to enroll a fair percentage of both boys and girls in AP classes? Also you might inquire how many students were rejected from this class and if it is a scheduling problem. Maybe the school needs to open another section of the class if there is a need for it and if your daughter meets the requirements to take the class.

    Good Luck!

  17. Agnes Lambert Udo says

    II am indeed happy to come across this web page this morning. I am a Biology lecturer in a College of Education, in Nigeria. Please how can I apply the STEM programme to teach “Protein Synthesis”?

  18. ella murphy says

    I am interested in this STEM program How do I join and place my granddaughter in this for next ear – What is the cost?

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