Written by: Sherrie Ripple, Director of Education

For over 20 years education has focused on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). It’s a comprehensive approach to broaden STEM literacy and participation. Project based work has been the focus to solve real world problems. 

More recently, Art was added to make STEAM. This multidisciplinary approach kept all the elements of STEM but allowed learners to be more creative. Also, the argument has been made that STEM created an entirely new line of arts with virtual reality, augmented reality and even gaming. 

Even more recently, a new acronym has surfaced, STREAM, which adds another layer to STEM and STEAM, by adding Reading and wRiting (or for some even religion). STREAM is about giving kids the freedom to think creatively, to experiment and to construct things on their own in a more holistic approach. To Dr. Azi Jamalian, head of education strategies at littleBits, STREAM has the potential to be more approachable and inclusive than STEM. “Incorporating design, art, and reading into STEM is a way for anyone, regardless of their technical ability, to be exposed to STREAM in a highly impactful and engaging way,” she says. “It should be accessible to everyone no matter what their background, gender, or comfort level with technology is.”

Nobel laureate and physicist William D. Phillips said, “I enjoyed and profited from well-taught science and math classes, but in retrospect, I can see that the classes that emphasized language and writing skills were just as important for the development of my scientific career as were science and math. I certainly feel that my high school involvement in debating competitions helped me later to give better scientific talks, that the classes in writing style helped me to write better papers.”

Educators often find STREAM a more well-rounded type of curriculum approach, encompassing a wider range of study opportunities for students. The update from STEM to STREAM has been important as educators believe that this will actively promote collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking skills. After all, in most any kind of job, it is beneficial to be well-read and a wordsmith. 

While there are many different approaches to education, students in River Legacy’s environmental education programs benefit from experiential learning in science and nature-based curriculums which are enhanced by music, art and literacy. Our key initiative is to educate the next generation of environmental stewards using the resources of River Legacy Park and River Legacy Nature Center which is accomplished through balanced curriculums incorporating all three science-based curricula approaches with an end goal of a better tomorrow for all of us.