STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. The acronym was coined in 2001 by the National Science Foundation to describe their focus on developing curriculum to enhance learning in these four areas.
The rationale for targeting these four areas is that while Science and Math are important to achieve a basic understanding of the universe, Engineering and Technology are needed for people to interact with the universe. STEM curricula and methods represent a movement away from the silo mentality where math and the sciences are perceived as distinctly separate bodies of knowledge. What a STEM curriculum or classroom looks like depends on who you are speaking to, however.
Here’s my perspective on what STEM is. First, there is not a single version but that is not a bad thing. As long as there are at least three of the knowledge bodies (science, technology, engineering and math) being used in meaningful ways, I see the experience as a STEM experience. Does that include using iPads in a classroom to look things up to complete worksheets? No! Can STEM only take place in self-contained “STEM” classrooms? No. STEM can take place in a wide variety of courses and settings (in and out of school).
Finally, there is also STEAM (the A is for Arts), a curricular framework in which STEM areas and the Humanities are all related. We live in an interdisciplinary world so it makes sense for us to use these perspectives to shape the way we think, teach, and learn about the world around us. For all purposes, this site should be called “talkSTEM or talkSTEAM”. The only reason it is not is because that seemed just too wordy!