The world of education is often rife with acronyms, and one that we hear frequently is “STEM” (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) and its latest iteration, “STEAM”, which includes all of those disciplines plus “the Arts”.

A few years ago, I was at a social gathering with other Catholic elementary school principals. It was August and our schools were due to open in a matter of weeks. As we chatted about our upcoming year, one principal confidently proclaimed “We are now a STEM school!”. I was grateful when someone else asked the question I harbored: what, exactly, is STEM?

I don’t recall her answer in great detail, but I came away with the sense that the school would have a generalized focus on the STEM disciplines. I also understood it as a means of staking a claim on an area of education that had grown in esteem and popularity. And I fully sympathized with the sense of urgency associated with making our schools relevant and competitive.

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