Would you think that the “A” is as relevant as any other letter in STEAM? STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) has been around for quite some time now, long enough for educators to see their research and activities unfold in schools across the country. But not long ago, various educators suggested adding an “A” (for arts) to the definition of STEM, sparking a national debate on whether the arts have a place in STEM education.
Both the private and public sectors claim that jobs in the 21st century require skills that many of today’s graduates do not possess. Students need more in-depth knowledge of math and science, plus the ability to integrate and apply that knowledge to resolve our nation’s challenges. Children who study STEM also develop a variety of skills that are important to success: critical thinking and problem-solving, creativity and innovation, communication, teamwork, and entrepreneurship, to name a few. Although STEM education has always integrated arts into the curriculum, the drive to change the word underlines the emphasis arts education puts on the personal and academic development of a child.
Why STEAM education is just as important?
By allowing children to explore their artistic side through the arts, they are able to expand their creative thinking abilities, which are necessary to solve complex engineering, science, and math issues. Such creative thinking skills teach your child to think outside the box and try growing, non-traditional pathways to a solution.
Improve academic performance
Kids engaging in arts, as defined by being immersed in art activity three hours a day for a minimum of three days a week, are four times more likely to excel in academic achievement compared to those kids who do not.
Improve visual learning
Children who are exposed to various media of art, such as sculpture and three-dimensional exploration, are better able to make visual information sense. Visual learning is as vital as auditory learning, and it is an ability not produced by all children through expressive art instruction.
Boosting higher decision-making skills
Allowing children to explore the imaginative side of the brain through the arts allows them to make decisions about how to perceive and express their thoughts for themselves. The arts are an essential component for improving a child’s ability to make and express decisions
How exactly is STEAM?
Although there were many advocates for shifting STEM to STEAM to include the arts, the campaign was primarily led by John Maeda. He argues that the arts (including liberal arts, fine arts, music, design-thinking, and language arts) are critical components of innovation and that the concept is not about giving STEM or arts equal or more time, but about incorporating the artistic and design-related skills and thinking processes to student-learning in STEM, where relevant.
Today’s innovators are imaginative beasts, collaborating collaboratively with other thinkers in open workspaces, sharing ideas internationally, and merging their STEM forces with some killer STEAM talents. Google employees today are not just software engineers or coders alone in dark rooms only illuminated by computer monitors. These are design-thinkers who spent 20 percent of their time developing projects of passion. The trailblazers of today are communicators who, in the sun, plan, craft, innovate and pioneer. They should include the arts to make STEM fully work. True STEM practitioners of the 21st century are also well-rounded design-thinkers and competent communicators. We need to get our youth into STEM, and incorporating the arts is a realistic avenue for that. But the real success of STEAM lies in changing our wider policies and testing systems to accommodate integrated STEAM science. By planning for adjusting our assessment and evaluation processes we can not completely change what’s happening in the classroom. Lastly, we need to make STEAM research exciting, meaningful and connected to the real world. Not only to make it interesting but also because STEAM really is learning in the real world.
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