BIT Studio

November 5, 2014

STEM to STEAM

Filed under: MUSIC — webmaster @ 3:02 pm

  STEM is an acronym used in current education policy and curriculum – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics – to address and stimulate a sector of education that is perceived to have been in decline for decades. Successive governments have lined up behind the technical focus and, as Wikipedia puts it, “It has implications for workforce development, national security concerns and immigration policy.”

In recent years, the exclusionary premise of STEM’s tech-only focus inspired the rise of a new acronym STEAM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics – in an attempt to bring the study of the humanities (art, reading, writing, music, design, etc.) back into the educational spotlight. Websites such as STEM to STEAM (http://stemtosteam.org/) provide links to resources, press releases and case studies (for example, Sesame Street + STREAM and RSID Foundation Studies) in support of the movement.

Vince Bertram, in a recent article in the Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/vince-bertram/stem-of-steam-were-missin_b_5031895.html), argues that the energy spent on competing acronyms (i.e., changing STEM to STEAM, STREAM, or SEA) is misguided. “If that is the debate, we are clearly missing the point. It’s not about adding to the acronym, but instead adding to the relevancy of learning. It’s about showing students how technical concepts relate to real-world situations and providing them with hands-on projects and problems that help them apply concepts in a new context. It’s about nurturing students’ curiosity and helping them develop creativity, problem solving and critical thinking skills. STEM isn’t simply the subjects in the acronym. It’s an engaging and exciting way of teaching and learning.” He goes on to make a case for STEM subjects being fundamentally important for growth in the arts, and vice versa.

The Arts & Science core curriculum has been the backbone of educational institutions everywhere since the concept of higher learning evolved, and a well-rounded education requires study in both. It is not about choosing “arts or science” or “arts not science” or “science not art” and, although the STEM movement has provided a much-needed rallying cry for an improvement in educational standards, perhaps a more inclusionary title might have been better received.

Study of the arts brings the powerful variable of subjectivity to the table, and it is that component that opens the door to unlimited possibilities. Removing the burden of deductive logic (scientific method) from the initial analysis of any problem provides the seed for creativity to grow. The Integrative Thinking methodology inherent in artistic study provides an infrastructure that fosters the creative and analytical thought processes required in all aspects of life. Problem solving and critical thinking skills are developed and honed over time through the repeated application of creative structured thinking. This is how study in the arts improves the potential success of study in the sciences.

The STEM versus STEAM argument may just be an exercise in semantics. However, we need both Arts & Science, and evidence shows that STEAM is best for improving the creativity, problem solving and critical thinking skills of our youth.

STEM to STEAM

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