I have a confession to make:
I don’t care about STEM. Or STEAM. Or even STREAM.
I just don’t care.
Ha, no, just kidding.
Here’s what I love:
The Boombox at Skokie Public Library. They had a ton of middle schoolers who needed something to do and exposure to teach, so they decided the library could help meet that need. But the Boombox is for all ages, Kindergarten through adults, making it multi-faceted and intergenerational.
Gail Borden Library’s live video chat with an astronaut. As part of their space themed summer reading initiative, they connected kids with an astronaut, getting to ask questions about space, and science. Their summer reading program included interactive exhibits to extend the experience and further
Teen film festivals at libraries, including my own place of work. Teens get to express themselves creatively while learning a ton of applicable skills, including storytelling, dramatic structure, editing, sound design, costuming, and much more.
But wait a minute Julie! Those are all STEAM programs, aren’t they? Why do you like them but say you don’t like STEM or STEAM or STREAM?
Well, you got me there. I guess I don’t hate STEM or STEAM or STREAM–as long as it’s done well. You notice I don’t mention a single 3D printer sitting idle in a back work room, or technology for technology’s sake. These three examples all show intentional, thoughtful programs and services that are more than just tech–they use tech in service of storytelling, making connections, bridging gaps, and building community.
I do hate it when STEM is promoted, funded, lauded, and idolized above all other things. Just because as a nation we’re trying to make up for a lack in one area that doesn’t mean we should focus on it to the exclusion of everything else.
How will a kid ever grow up to read a technical manual if they don’t know how to read? How will they be the next black Steve Jobs in the making if they can’t tell a compelling story to consumers and stakeholders? How will they get funding for their amazing new project if they can’t speak and write persuasively to sources of funding?
So no, I don’t really hate STEAM–I just think a lot of other things are equally important, too.