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Full Steam Ahead

Navigating three top challenges of implementing a STEAM program.

June 4, 2024

Does your school have a brand-new science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) program in place, or is one being considered? Benefits of STEAM include helping your students build skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, and leadership — and teaching them to apply that knowledge in real life. But what about the challenges of implementing a STEAM initiative?

Pros, cons, and conundrums of a STEAM initiative

The overall goals of STEAM include broadening STEAM literacy and participation among all students and strengthening the STEAM workforce by increasing the number of students who pursue a career in a related field.  


While these objectives can be beneficial to students and educators alike, actually defining, implementing, and accomplishing them may be easier said than done. Shared challenges among teachers include heavier workloads, difficulties understanding STEAM integration, and complexities associated with collaborating across disciplines.1  


Below are three other common challenges that your school may face when bringing a STEAM program to fruition — and some tips that may help you address them:

Challenge #1: STEAM isn’t free

Successful STEAM programs are often connected to having the latest technology and engaging materials in place — both of which come with a price tag. Acquiring, maintaining, and updating tech and collateral require money — but having the finances necessary to make this feasible isn’t always possible.2


And funding isn’t for solutions only. Professional development programs for educators can be essential for teachers who are integrating STEAM learning into their classrooms, but schools aren’t always able to invest in training either. This can leave educators unequipped and unprepared to make the most of a STEAM initiative with their students.


Tip: It can be beneficial to work with key decision-makers in your school and/or district to allocate spend or dedicate budgets to STEAM programs. In addition, federal and local governments — as well as private foundations — offer a variety of STEAM grants for K-12. Your school can also seek funding from nonprofits, small businesses, and individuals.3 It’s important to note that not all grants are publicized, so performing extensive research and reviewing as many grant lists as possible can go a long way in helping you see the entire landscape and weigh your options.4

Challenge #2: Incorporating STEAM can be tricky 

Another common challenge teachers face is incorporating STEAM into lesson plans.2 STEAM projects include bridge building, crystal-growing gardens, and basic computer programming. While these projects are based on science, they also incorporate artistic expression. Merging projects like these into standardized curricula isn’t always intuitive and can affect guidelines and expectations for student testing and academic progress.2  


Tip: Implementing a STEAM initiative into your current curriculum doesn’t have to be a one-person job. Through collaborative planning and the inclusion of teacher cross-sections, you can make key decisions together. Before teaching STEAM, it’s important to learn about its principles and practices, so training can be key. Curriculum schema mapping can also help you maintain integrity across all content areas. Incorporating STEAM can be time intensive, so working with others to adjust your schedule (when possible) to accommodate training and new teaching methods can help you make room in your day to help make STEAM learning successful. 5

Challenge #3: Some may see STEAM learning as too complicated

STEAM programs can be inherently complex. And the challenge mentioned above may cause some to ask: “If implementing a STEAM program is so difficult for teachers, how hard will it be for students to participate in?” This can foster the perception that the general student population may not be STEAM-ready and that programs should only be made available to the most-advanced students. This can result in more discouraged students and lessen the potential for a larger number of students to benefit from STEAM learning.2


Tip: Great communication skills can help explain concepts to a diverse range of students. But even more importantly, enthusiasm can help you excite — not alienate — your general student population. Since STEAM is still relatively new, putting your students’ minds at ease through encouragement and demonstrating how STEAM learning can be fun through educational play, field trips, makerspaces, and more can help your new program feel less intimidating and more inviting and accessible.6

Bright Ideas

ODP Business Solutions is committed to helping you meet the demands that your school and district face every day, so you can help your students succeed. We offer STEAM activity kits and solutions for your students to be innovative in the classroom, and Workspace Interiors by ODP Business Solutions can help you create STEAM-focused makerspaces. Contact your ODP Business Solutions account manager or visit for more details.





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