STEM 101: What is STEM?

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Canada 2067 is uniting Canadians to develop and implement a new vision for youth STEM learning. What is STEM? In a rapidly changing world, key skills and characteristics developed through STEM will be critical for everyone. In fact, even if you don’t want to work in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math, STEM learning will undoubtedly benefit each and every one of us from coast to coast. To understand why, we have to set our sights on tomorrow.

As technology continues to evolve at a fantastic pace, it’s increasingly critical that all youth have opportunities to develop the critical thinking, problem solving, creative and collaborative skills needed for evolving work and citizenship demands. But for the uninitiated, you may be wondering just what the ubiquitous acronym STEM means.

To break it down, STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. But there is much, much more to the “STEM” label than these subject areas. First though, let’s break down each word and its traditionally defined field of study:

Science: This is where scientific inquiry reigns supreme — traditionally this includes physics, biology, chemistry, and other areas of study.

Technology: This is where scientific knowledge is applied for practical purposes, creating new machinery and new processes that transform society.

Engineering: This is where science and math are used to solve practical problems.

Mathematics: This includes pure and applied math, and all the various subfields of mathematical analysis.

Teacher teaching math

STEM is so much more than four fields of study, though. It has become a short-form label that includes a diverse set of 21st century skills and characteristics — ways of thinking about (and solving) the problems that we all face as global citizens. We can break down STEM-related skills into three categories: fundamental skills, practical skills, and advanced skills.

Fundamental skills represent skills that are of value to anyone, in any occupation and in everyday life! They include logical reasoning, critical thinking, and problem-solving. These are the skills we use every day when we evaluate a problem, identify resources, construct a solution, and execute plans.

Practical skills are what we usually associate with “STEM.” These skills are usually related to particular jobs – such as using specialized equipment, doing calculations, and developing technology. When we imagine specialized careers or highly skilled trades, we generally think about practical skills.

Teens exploring atoms in the classroom

Finally, there are advanced STEM skills. These skills allow Canadians to engage in discovery and innovation, in groundbreaking research, or in the creation of new technologies that can impact the lives of people. These advanced skills are typically acquired through postsecondary education, Master’s, and Ph.D. programs.

“STEM” is much more than meets the eye. It not only builds critical skills but STEM-based learning also fosters creativity, resiliency, ‘grit’ and communication – key characteristics of innovative thinkers and problem solvers! Everyone benefits from quality STEM-based learning. .

You can see why we’re so passionate about STEM at Canada 2067 — we know that STEM can help propel Canada to the forefront of future innovation, and open up amazing new possibilities for all of us. But we have to seize these opportunities today.

Do you have an opinion about the future of learning in Canada, and how STEM can help us build a better tomorrow? Share your thoughts and experiences with us and take our Canada 2067 survey now.

By Bonnie Schmidt