Full STEAM Ahead is a movement that is gaining widespread attention. That’s happening not only for its catchy title, but for its broad appeal and popularization of various STEAM programs and initiatives that embrace diversity and inclusion across America and beyond.

As an acronym for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathmatics)plus the arts, STEAM is an educational movement, begun a few years ago, that engages students from preschool through college and beyond as an integrated learning approach, officially recognized nationally as part of Common Core Standards along with science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The standards, implemented on the national and state levels, are an essential component to any high-quality STEAM program.

Adding the ‘A’

It began as a movement, championed by the Rhode Island School of Design, to place Art + Design at the center of STEM, and was widely adopted by institutions, corporations and individuals. It is about inspiring students to “think creatively outside the box” to solve programs, using the tools provided to them.

Whereas STEM education was (and is) regarded as a huge innovation in integrated learning theory and practice in the 20th century, STEAM is the next generation Science Standards, Language Arts and Literacy, aligned with the Visual and Performing Arts Standards in preparing students to effectively face the challenges in the 21st century.

It seeks to add humanity to STEM, acknowledging that it is OK to not always be perfect — to learn by exploration and experimentation.

Students are encouraged to ask questions, to be collaborative and innovative through Core Standards. They are taught to apply concepts by designing “hands-on” projects to demonstrate their understanding of science, technology, engineering, math, language arts, literacy and art, with emphasis placed on the wonder of art and science in human endeavors. By their very nature, both STEM and STEAM programs provide and embrace diversity and inclusion.
Arts + Diversity

To look at the topic of Full STEAM Ahead in a broader context, STEAM Magazine, of Irvine, Calif., is one of six nationally recognized diversity-focused magazines published by DiversityComm.Inc. during its 25-year history. It contends that one of the best ways to create value in the 21st century is to combine science and technology with arts, creativity and entrepreneurship.

Diversity in STEAM Magazine brings STEM programs and educational, business and employment opportunities to all minorities and diverse cultures, starting with K–12. It is the company’s firm belief that, to have a successful company, diversity and inclusion must be implemented in all departments. It maintains that STEM and the arts are critical for our future and innovation.

On an annual basis, as in 2017, STEAM Magazine polled hundreds of schools in their efforts to promote diversity in all aspects of STEAM to ensure equal opportunity. It cited the following list of Top STEM-Friendly Programs, in alphabetical order, which include (amongst many others around the U.S.): Brown University, Carnegie Mellon University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth University, Drexel University, Duke University, Harvard University, The Johns Hopkins University and Yale University.

Full STEAM Ahead is a part of Code VA’s initiative to “integrate Computer Science in Virginian classrooms. Our mission is to empower and enrich young women in their pursuit of STEAM. … We envision a world where girls have the confidence, resources and support they need to blast Full STEAM Ahead.”

Learning to Learn

Studies have shown that students engaged in a meaningful arts education benefit with higher SAT scores in reading, language and math, as well as stronger abilities in analytical thinking, reasoning and social competencies, which dovetail into a higher motivation to learn. Through the inclusion of the arts, students build the toolboxes they need to be the innovators of tomorrow.
In Howard County, Thunder Hill Elementary School sponsors a STEAM Day each spring that not only showcases the school’s Related Arts programs, but also brings in speakers and presenters from various walks of life, including parents and representatives from organizations, businesses and institutions that recognize, share, advocate and promote STEAM programs.


Dr. Joan Spicknall is director of The Suzuki Music School of Maryland, in Columbia. She can be reached at 410-964-1983 and at [email protected].