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From STEM to STEAM: Why one community is rallying for the A in classroom curriculum

Capital Area Career Center students use science, technology, engineering, creativity and math skills in the Engineering Program.

Capital Area Career Center engineering program student using STEAM skills.

Capital Area Career Center student working on project integrating STEAM skills.

The first few weeks of school are here and gone. Many students have used the time as an adjustment period -- meeting teachers, memorizing schedules and recapping material to prepare for an entire new year of learning.
That wasn’t the case for Keep Learning Week student participants. They identified their strongest skills, explored growing science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics -- otherwise known as STEAM -- careers and identified post-secondary programs to reach their goals.
Keep Learning, the organization behind Keep Learning Week, is a coalition of education, business, government and media partners committed to doubling the number of people in the Greater Lansing region with college degrees and/or skilled trade certifications.
Keep Learning Week is an annual opportunity for the Greater Lansing region to draw attention to critical topics related to education. This year, Keep Learning advocates pushed for a focus on STEAM education, with an emphasis on the importance of arts integration. STEAM combines the arts, creativity and problem solving as a core areas of development.
STEAM opens students up to endless opportunities
“Art education goes beyond painting,” said Edith Suttles, Keep Learning steering committee member. “I’m a huge advocate for STEAM education. I don’t want us to see our human potential as just science, technology, engineering and math, because that A gives students an opportunity to explore and develop creativity, furthering talent,” Suttles added.
STEAM prepares our youth for 21st century challenges by providing opportunities for students to ask questions, collaborate and innovate through core standards.  STEAM exposes students to a range of career opportunities, including graphic design, video game design, engineering, music, software development, computer science and television and movie production
Planting the STEAM seed in students
With the help of Ingham Intermediate School District, Keep Learning Week K-12 students accessed career exploration resources to identify potential STEAM jobs, educational programs and training paths. To cater to younger students, some resources were included to simply inspire. Participants used tools such as:
  • Whyville -- An innovative learning site with games and videos to help spark student interest in careers from art to marine biology -- even civics and programming.
  • Career One Stop -- Career and cluster videos showcasing nearly 550 careers, organized by the 16 career clusters recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • O*NET -- Career exploration activity used to gather specific career data in terms of level of education, projected pay and job outlook for use in comparing their top careers of choice.
  • My Next Move -- Career exploration activity in which students search careers by individual title or career pathway or conduct an interest inventory.
  • Career Cruising -- An innovative self-exploration and planning software used to engage students in the process of building their future.
Engineering program students at the Capital Area Career Center expanded their creativity skills and emphasized STEAM principles during Keep Learning Week.
It’s essential for students of all ages to practice STEAM skills in the classroom, identify potential career paths and begin planning for their futures. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in professional, scientific and technical services is projected to grow by 29 percent, adding about 2.1 million new jobs between 2010 and 2020.
Keep Learning is all business
Although Keep Learning pushes the importance of education, the group also understands the benefits of partnering with area businesses and leaders to fill in-demand positions through non-traditional paths, including, early/middle colleges, apprenticeships, internships, job shadowing, mentoring and experimental learning.
“These days, more learning is being conducted outside of the classroom. With our changing demographics and the demand for skilled-trade workers, it has become essential for us to expose our students to non-traditional paths that offer opportunities to earn a good living,” said Suttles. 
To take advantage of business apprenticeships, internships and mentoring programs, students need to be equipped with an extremely important aspect of STEAM -- strong communication skills -- to excel their career.
“Students need to learn to appropriately communicate in written and verbal forms. Tomorrow's jobs require a much better capacity for analytical thinking as opposed to routine tasks,” said Karen Stefl, Such Video Inc. partner and Keep Learning committee member.
What’s does the future of a STEAM community look like?
Curriculum can’t transform overnight, but the implementation of STEAM resources and education can truly propel a region.
“The future looks great for our community. We can become a well-trained, well-educated, culturally diverse and thriving economic community. We have the opportunity to become the exemplary STEAM region in America -- retaining the best and the brightest talent, not just from here, but from around the world. We have the tools here to make that happen,” said Suttles.
For more information on Keep Learning, visit learnforourfuture.org.
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