What is STEAM?
Over the last several years there has been a renewed push towards STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) education with the goal of increasing student performance in these areas. In 2009, the Obama Administration launched the Educate to Innovate initiative “to move American students from the middle to the top of the pack in science and math achievement over the next decade” and ensure a strong workforce with 21st century skills. As these initiatives grow, several advocates have started to believe that there’s a key piece missing: art and design.
The integration of art and design with science and technology promotes new ways of thinking. Right-brain thinking developed through the arts leads to innovation and creative problem solving. Arts education allows you to see the world differently and according to Stephen Lane, CEO and Co-Founder, Ximedica, design-based thinking enables STEM to succeed. John Maeda, President of RISD, has launched http://stemtosteam.org/ because “Design creates the innovative products and solutions that will propel our economy forward, and artists ask the deep questions about humanity that reveal which way forward actually is.” Artists observe and question the world around them and so do scientists.
Women are especially underrepresented in fast-growing, high-wage STEM fields. They make up only 25 percent of the workforce and study STEM subjects in college at a lower rate than men. The White House wants to increase the number of women and minority women in STEM fields. The integration of art is a way to make STEM subjects more engaging to a wider audience that may have traditionally avoided these areas such as girls and students who don’t learn linearly. Jennifer Burg uses music-making to teach computer science to her Wake Forest University students. Music is the vehicle, but programming and understanding technology is the goal.
How is It Being Done?
The key is integration rather than art, science, and math taught separately. Check out a few of the examples below for inspiration.
- Robotics, Engineering and Poetry: Students make poetry dioramas using robotic tool kits.
- Stemtosteam.org: Case studies on STEAM integration including Andover Public Schools
- Moundsview Public Schools: Middle schools turn STEM into a standards-based STEAM program
- Sesame Street: Elmo uses math to solve problems
[Logo image via StageNotes.net]