STEM vs STEAM vs STREAM: What Does It All Mean & What Is Best?

You have heard all about STEM education, but what about STEAM? & STREAM?

On Little Robot Shop we love the STEM principles and most of the robot toys and educational gifts that we hunt down and recommend for kids will have an element of STEM education about them. But it is no longer that straight forward.

But, to put it simply STEAM is an advanced version evolved from the STEM education system while STREAM is the most recent and update to the acronym that promises a better education process for your children.

In this post, we’ll focus on one such process that’s been evolved multiple times to cater needs of betterment in education. It’s the concept of STEM vs STEAM vs STREAM.

So, now, let’s take a detailed look over each of these processes.

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STEM, STEAM or STREAM: key differences

But, before we proceed to a detailed explanation about all three, let’s have a quick look at the key differences among all three variations of today’s education system.

As mentioned, the STEM movement was the oldest form of process which is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths. A & R were introduced over time where A stands for Art & R stands for Reading. All of this combined forms a process for overall growth and understanding of any aspect or fundamental of any subject.

Now, to understand this concept in brief, we should understand what it means by the STEM process of education & learning. So let’s get started.

boy learning coding through toys

STEM education

What is STEM education?

STEM education is an approach of including all elements Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths in each subject of teaching instead of teaching all these separately. 

It aims to connect these 4 subjects in the classroom with all others in some way so students can get the importance of these subjects while learning any lesson which is part of an entirely different subject.

The most common example of this process is computer programming where logic and competitive skills play as essential a role as core computer skills. 

A girl practising STEM education through science

Why is STEM important?

STEM was introduced to cater to the dire need of the education system and schools to promote constant growth of student’s understanding. It’s important because it promotes innovative skills and awakens curiosity to learn and understand each concept in depth. 

The success of STEM has prompted many businesses to show interest in collaborating with education which resulted in a higher rate of growth of an individual’s career perspective as well.

So in a nutshell, STEM was not just important from an individual’s growth point of view, but from their career’s perspective as well it holds the equivalent importance.

STEAM education

What does STEAM stand for?

Well, STEAM incorporates all core elements of STEM but it adds Art to the combination. 

The aim of adding art was to cater to the need for education advancements. You might have heard about the seed necklace project? Well, that was a project based on the STEAM approach where science & maths were key elements while the addition of artistic expression to the whole project resulted in success.

Now, as we’ve understood the former two concepts of the education process, let’s take a look at the most recent education process, STREAM.

Kids and STREAM education including art

Is STEAM better than STEM?

To understand the obvious affirmative answer, we need to understand the importance of Arts in the educational process and fundamentals. 

While we all know how science, technology, engineering, & math helps us in understanding how problems of the world can be solved with logic and technical skills. Also, it helps in understanding how processes and fundamentals work together. 

However, it lacks promotion of the creative and innovative skills in the process. Also, while one may know that a particular problem is solvable using technologies around them, they might not come up with an innovative aspect to make it more beautiful and customizable.

So, the addition of Art becomes necessary which promotes the creative and artistic thinking of an individual. And hence, STEAM helps an individual to come up with artistic and innovative ideas to solve any problem with opportunities available in science & technologies.

So, our obvious answer is that “Yes! STEAM is better than STEM for the obvious reason that it promotes innovative thinking required to come up with new ideas to solve problems.”

STREAM education

So, what does STREAM stand for?

STREAM stands for Science, Technology, Reading & wRiting, Engineering, Arts, and Maths. It adds up Reading & wRiting to STEAM. 

Well, it’s the most recent form of education which caters to the needs of the development of all core skills to think, design, innovate and iterate the solution to any problem.

Also, it allows us to promote innovative logical thinking by keeping a track with wRiting and by gaining knowledge through Reading.

Girl reading which is added in STREAM education

What are the benefits of STREAM over STEM?

Now, if we consider the importance of education in the 21st century, then STREAM is more beneficial compared to STEM. Well, that’s because educators & experts in the education field believe that it promotes real life 21st century skills. 

Moreover, STREAM is beneficial because it allows students to learn core & most vital skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, combining innovative & collaborative ideas with today’s technology and tech opportunities.

As STREAM adds Reading & wRiting in the prior concept of STEAM, it strengthens the process to the next level. 

Also, many successful people have admitted that STREAM takes care of overall requirements in the education curriculum, and hence it’s more interesting and effective compared to older two variations.

According to Nobel Laureate and Physicist William D. Phillips, “Language & writing skills played an essential role as science & maths classes in development of his scientific career.” This clearly justifies that STREAM is the concept for modern education and learning advancements.

Moreover, it’s a fact that if we want to produce highly-skilled, innovative, and qualified scientists then writing & reading needs to be the skills that they cherish & love to practice.

two girls writing which is a fundamental diffence when comparing STEM vs STEAM vs STREAM

What are the benefits of expanding STEM education?

And, now comes the point, why does it require to expand the original and actually promoted form of education which is STEM education? Also, how this expanded form of STEM education can benefit in dire need of businesses around the globe?

Well, here are key benefits that prove how STREAM is a more powerful, effective, and efficient approach compared to STEM education.

  • STREAM education fulfills the goal of adapting to the 21st century’s skills.
  • It is a holistic approach with variations so it’s less boring compared to STEAM.
  • Being a modern educational approach helps in awakening the creativity and innovative skills of an individual which is required in any discipline.  
  • It promotes overall growth by being a wider form of STEM education.
  • STREAM helps in improving problem-solving skills to come up with innovative ideas to solve real-life problems.
  • This approach of education encourages the engagement of students.
  • STREAM education is a completely student-centered approach.
  • This approach makes learning a fun experience and hence students like being engaged with the process.
  • As reading & writing are known to be fundamental bases of education, it strengthens the core skills of students required to understand a problem.

But does adding Reading & Arts to STEM undermine the concept?

Well, the purpose of introducing STEM was not to produce the workforce. The vision of STEM education has always been to help students identify their passion and becoming a productive part of society by utilizing their passion. 

But, as it was not promoting enough innovative and creative thinking which is a must to identify one’s passion, the addition of Arts and Reading is starting to be introduced.

If we look from the actual vision’s perspective then the addition of Arts and Reading doesn’t undermine the concept of STEM education. In fact, it strengthens the process by improving the most required skills in any human being to identify their passion through innovative thinking.

Tired Reading

STEM vs STEAM vs STREAM: final thoughts

So, as we’ve taken a closer look at a comparison of STEM vs STEAM vs STREAM,  which one is better and why?

In our opinion, STEM is the oldest form of the education process that lacks some of the crucially important aspects of the overall growth of an individual from their career’s perspective, which is why STEAM education came along.

However, people were still not content and decided that STEAM education was missing one of the most elemental and old school requirements of innovative thinking with reading & wRiting, so the STREAM education approach was introduced.

I believe there is a true difference between STEM and STEAM and I feel art and creativity is something that can easily be forgotten yet often has innovative solutions to life problems.

Creativity is a gift to be nurtured.

However, STREAM, I feel that maybe a step too far and be over-complicating the search for something that came around as an easy to remember methodology. 

If you are educating, reading and writing will almost always be involved and I don’t feel that it is necessary to add as it is already there. 

What do you think? Do you teach your kids with STEM principles in mind? Have you dabbled in anything else? We love to hear, let us know in the comments below.

About the author

Matt is the founder of the Little Robot Shop, who has spent much of the last decade hacking home cleaning with various robots and devices to make keeping his home clean as easy as possible. Not an easy task with two young children.

When not working on the Little Robot Shop website or YouTube channel, he works as technical support and product specialist for a fast-growing digital company. He does his best to get his younglings to code, which will be an essential skill in the future.

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