STEM vs STEAM Education: What’s the Difference?

What’s the difference between STEM and STEAM?

Although STEM and STEAM look and sound similar, there is one very big difference - the inclusion of the arts. This can encompass any creative subject from fine art and drama to graphic design, photography, and even English literature. STEAM offers a broader approach, making its definition more abstract.

STEM aims to equip learners with “future-ready” and practical skills by focusing on the teaching of science, technology, engineering and math. STEAM can also equip learners with these skills, but additionally fosters a love of creativity and imagination by bringing arts into the equation. STEAM is often considered more inclusive than STEM because it allows kids who are naturally more gifted in creative subjects to feel valued and to let their talents flourish.

It’s important to note, however, that neither STEM nor STEAM has a set definition and the ways it’s implemented is as diverse as the students in each classroom.

STEM Education

What is STEM Education?

STEM is the intersection of science, technology, engineering and math. It was originally SMET but changed to the (somewhat catchier and much less weird sounding) STEM in 2001, when it was used by scientific administrators at the National Science Foundation.

It is easy to explain what the letters in STEM stand for but explaining what it means and how it’s used is where things get tricky because there’s no set definition. However, most of the time when someone is talking about STEM they’re talking about an interdisciplinary approach to education blending science, technology, engineering and math to equip learners with “future-ready” skills. STEM Education can help prepare kids for adult life and success in any career they choose.

STEM Education can look different depending on how the individual, district, school or educator defines it. For example, some educators consider social and political sciences to be STEM subjects, and some only classify traditional sciences such as biology and chemistry to be STEM. It’s also important to note that there is no facilitation method for STEM Education and no set standard on how to implement it; individual subjects such as science and math have state standards that teachers must follow but this isn’t the case for STEM.

Why is STEM Education important?

There are many reasons why STEM Education is important. Significantly, it’s great on a societal level because there’s huge demand for workers who are highly skilled at science, technology, engineering and math.

By focusing on STEM in schools, we can be sure that we’re fostering a generation of students who are qualified and passionate about skills and scientific concepts needed to fill vital roles in fields such as medicine, dentistry and engineering. And when people’s skills match the job market, we can ensure higher employment rates overall!

However, STEM is not just for those looking to pursue these types of careers. The communication, collaboration and critical thinking skills that come with a STEM Education are an asset to all career fields.

Benefits of STEM Education

It is tough to count all the benefits of a STEM Education. Here are just a few:


A STEM Education fosters resilience in a learner, not only making them more employable, but preparing them for whatever life throws their way. For example, learning to deal with difficult math problems through trial and error can help learners become more accepting of failure, ensuring they’ll become resilient adults.


STEM encourages risk-taking and innovation. An elementary school kid learning how to think outside the box and take risks could just become the founder of the next big tech company.


STEM helps learners become comfortable using technology as a tool from an early age, preparing them for the future by meeting the needs of the labor market.


STEAM Education

What is STEAM Education?

In 2006 researcher Georgette Yakman had the epiphany that STEM could be improved and enriched by the creativity of arts subjects. She added an “A” to STEM and STEAM was born. Like STEM, a STEAM curriculum combines all of those disciplines and comes with no solid definition or set standard on how to implement it.

Although people often compare STEM and STEAM, the addition of art creates a significant difference between the two. STEAM is more abstract than STEM. It includes everything from fine art and performance art to subjects such as photography and even English literature. Most importantly, it puts an emphasis on how we communicate and express STEM-related ideas.

Why is STEAM Education important?

STEAM is important because just like STEM, it equips learners with the skills they need to fill essential roles such as doctors, engineers, and technological innovators. However, it also ensures learners have the critical skills needed to excel in any field including creative careers like design and writing, or even acting and music.

By including the arts in education and recognizing that they matter just as much as science, technology, engineering, and math ensures that all kids have the opportunity to flourish, no matter their natural skills and passions. An added benefit is STEAM reminds us that innovation and creative solutions require creativity.

Benefits of STEAM Education

STEAM Education comes with all the advantages of STEM plus a few added benefits:


STEAM encourages creative thinking and imagination, cultivating an open-minded approach and providing a healthy outlet to combat the stress that life sometimes throws at us.


Just like STEM, a STEAM Education fosters soft skills and collaboration with learners, often working together as a team. This improves their confidence as a group leader, and a group member.


STEAM helps kids develop empathy and social skills. Working together to solve problems requires kids to develop their own opinions while working to understand the perspectives and feelings of others. These are critical social emotional skills.

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Why does LEGO Education focus on STEAM?

At LEGO Education, we focus on developing whole student solutions that are accessible and relevant for all learners. Our hands-on learning solutions and STEAM lessons are designed to inspire interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM), in students in preschool, elementary and middle school. LEGO Education reignites joy in learning by bringing purposeful play to the classroom with instructional methods and project-based learning proven to improve cognitive, social, emotional, creative, and physical learning outcomes. These playful, hands-on STEAM learning experiences lead to the development of the whole learner by being:

  • Joyful
  • Meaningful
  • Actively engaging
  • Iterative
  • Socially interactive

Students actively experiment in our STEAM lesson activities and explore to gain, deepen, and apply new knowledge and skills essential to success in future education and careers. They are encouraged to collaborate as they iterate on their solutions to open-ended tasks, facilitated and guided by their teacher. Explore our products.