Reading and literacy have always played a huge role in STEM education. Yes, some call it STREAM, but then there’s STEAM and STREM but also the original- METS…and probably a few more by now. All of the acronyms are a lot to keep track of so sometimes those extra letters that have good intention get left by the wayside.
I’ve always called it STEM. It keeps it easy and familiar even though there are other components that are big contributors- like reading and literacy. Despite not usually being called out, reading and literacy play a huge part in STEM. Just look at any STEM classroom project and you’ll see written communication, recording observations in science journals, giving presentations, conducting research, etc. All these are based on the student’s ability to read and comprehend.
In addition, being able to effectively read and comprehend helps kids develop critical thinking skills, problem solving skills and other necessary skills in the STEM field like attention to detail and analyzing data. But it’s actually more than that. Even though STEM is science, technology, engineering and math, a student really can’t be successful without these other components.
In a STEM context, reading also helps kids to synthesize ideas, research new solutions and apply scientific concepts. There’s a lot more skill involved when reading in a STEM context. Non-fiction reading is notoriously more difficult for kids than reading a piece of fiction, mostly because specialized vocabulary makes it tricky. Without communicating their ideas effectively, students will struggle to understand even the most basic concepts.
Even though the reading and literacy designation of ‘R’ might sometimes get left out of STEM, it doesn’t negate its importance. Reading provides students with essential skills that will help them be successful no matter which career they choose to pursue. It’s always been there. It’s just hiding in plain sight.
Check out some great picture books to bridge the gap between literacy and STEM!
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Lane specializes in STEM curriculum design and professional development for K-12 stakeholders and enjoys making teachers’ lives easier through innovative, standards-based STEM lessons.