Many may have heard the attempts to shift U.S. education increasingly toward STEM education: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics focused classrooms and programs. A big prompt for this movement is the growth of technology in our society with a lack of qualified professionals to move forward. While many professions may be interchangeable, it is difficult for individuals without a STEM degree to enter a STEM field. STEM degrees, however, transfer into skills in non-STEM related fields – at least, that’s been the established belief.
Importance of the Arts
STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics. The arts are not exclusively just the visual arts. Instead, the term arts encompass language and literary arts, fine arts, practical arts, as well as ties to integrate social sciences into the sciences category – hence the “why and by whom things are done” . The STEM movement has produced a sort of counter movement vying for the preservation of traditional aspects, and even the accentuation of aspects that have fallen by the wayside, of emphasizing the importance of art and history in the creative decision-making process. Indeed, creativity is a crucial facet when it comes to technology and engineering. Incorporation of the social sciences and arts into STEM through STEAM would promise a more flexible K-12 education that provides a wide pathway that gears students for success in post-secondary education within most fields.
Well-Rounded or Spear?
Two terms that come in focus in the minds of students, parents, and educators are the concepts of a “well-rounded” student and a student who is a “spear”. Essentially, these terms contrast how a student highlights their interests in a specific direction. A STEM education might mold a student into more of a spear, while a STEAM education is more well-rounded. There has been a shift in preference amongst universities and employers to candidates that seem like spears – is this bad news for STEAM? Not necessarily. Of course, a candidate who is a specialist or expresses mastery in their respective field is ideal. For students who know that STEM is their passion, a STEM program is the ideal solution for them. However, it is best to think of STEAM as an initiative that would work great in synergy with STEM programs. STEAM is an important way to expose students to the concepts of engineering, sciences and mathematics, that have an affinity for the arts and social sciences. It gives students hands-on opportunities to see how letting their creativity flourish can have profound impacts in
advancing technology. While STEM programs are receiving investment by the Department of Education, the introduction of STEAM programs doesn’t have such a jumpstart . The gradual implementation of STEAM, whether local or broad, may usher in a wave of great change when it comes to meeting the growing STEM demand; this responsibility lies primarily at the level of our teachers and local educators.
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solar4STEM hands-on STEM kits aid vocational training at Sumter Correctional Institution in efforts to prevent recidivism.
Pinellas Park, FL: Today, solar4STEM announced it has partnered with Sumter Correctional Institution by providing their solar4STEM 50 education kits for incorporating hands-on STEM learning in Sumter C.I.’s Pilot Energy Technician Program. Solar4STEM is excited to partner with Sumter Correctional Institution to provide engaging STEM kits that help their inmates re-enter society with employable skills.
...studies show that rehabilitation programs decreases recidivism.
While the debate on punishment vs. rehabilitation at correctional institutions continues, studies show that rehabilitation programs decreases recidivism. For instance, a study in Ohio found that prisoners who take college courses while incarcerated have an 18% re-offending rate, while prisoners who do not take college courses while incarcerated have a more than doubled re-offending rate of 40%. 
There are four main purposes of a Correctional Institution: retribution, incapacitation, deterrence, and rehabilitation.
“There are four main purposes of a Correctional Institution: retribution, incapacitation, deterrence, and rehabilitation.,” says John Friedhof, Vocational Instructor at Sumter Correctional Institution (Sumter C.I.). “My role within those four realms is rehabilitation. As a Vocational Educator my role is to prepare the students for a career once released from incarceration.” He adds, “Society benefits by gaining the release of the incarcerated individual with immediate education, skills and certifications.”
Sumter C.I. hopes to ease their inmates’ re-entry into society by providing vocational training. Mr. Friedhof teaches a 600-hour, 11-month Energy Technician Program allowing inmates to learn about electronics and renewable energy, while earning their Energy Technician Vocational Educational Certificate. Currently, there are 42 students attending the STEM program.
[I] thought that the solar4STEM 50 trainer would be an excellent addition to the Pilot Energy Technician Program at Sumter C.I.
John Friedhof says, “[I] thought that the solar4STEM 50 trainer would be an excellent addition to the Pilot Energy Technician Program at Sumter C.I.” He adds, “STEM programs are rare within correctional educational programs and are now just coming to the forefront of the correctional vocational educators’ methods of teaching.”
By training with the solar4STEM educational kits, Sumter C.I. hopes to give valuable certification opportunities to their inmates helping them enter the workforce and reintegrate back into their community as productive members of society.
"The inmates benefit from the use of the STEM Program by the utilization of the trainer in conjunction with their normal textbook studies. After reading the current lesson topic, the inmate can immediately practice that topic on the solar4STEM 50. I believe this method solidifies the inmates understanding of the current Solar Energy topic and gains real world experience in completing the activities associated with the training manual. This leads to a more in depth understanding of the subject and provides the knowledge necessary for the student to use that knowledge to further benefit his career.” - John Friedhof, Vocational Instructor at Sumter Correctional Institution
The partnership between solar4STEM and Sumter C.I. has been a success with John Friedhof reporting, “The students were very receptive to the idea of using the solar4STEM 50 trainer and have enjoyed the activities while using the solar4STEM 50 trainer. I hope that use of the solar4STEM 50 trainer inspires them once released to pursue more STEM projects/learning.”
About solar4STEM: Located in Pinellas Park, Florida, solar4STEM is dedicated to providing interactive STEM & sustainability kits for the education industry. sSolar4STEM is a brand of the parent small business Custom Manufacturing & Engineering, Inc. (CME®), which has won local and national technology awards and for is a developer of innovative products for government, commercial and industrial applications. For more information about solar4STEM, see www.solar4STEM.com, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 727-547-9799 Ext. 1799.
About Sumter Correctional Institution:
The Sumter Correctional Institution is a state prison for men located in Bushnell, Sumter County, Florida, owned and operated by the Florida Department of Corrections.
 “Criminal Justice Fact Sheet,” www.NAACP.org, accessed August 10, 2017, https://donate.naacp.org/pages/criminal-justice-fact-sheet.
 “Recidivism,” www.nij.gov, last modified June 17, 2014, https://www.nij.gov/topics
 James S. Vacca, “Educated Prisoners Are Less Likely to Return to Prison,” Journal of Correctional Education 55, no. 4 (2004): 298, http://www.jstor.org/stable/23292095.