From STEM to STEAM
STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) allows learning environments for students to be more active, and that means students can get more engaged in their own learning. There’s no manipulation for students to become active learners, either—it just happens naturally. When students can do that, they are better able to remember what they’ve learned, and more willing to go beyond—because it is meaningful. It is that personal engagement, as well as meaning, in the learning process that makes a difference. STEM does not allow students to remain passive learning by-standers for long, it does, rather, allow students to become, and continue to be dreamers, visionaries, and doers.
What Defines Us?
We are defined not only by what we construct, but also by the creative design and passion of the invention we envision. Hand a child a paintbrush, a musical instrument, sing some thoughts to others, or read a line of poetry aloud, and you’ll unleash the spark of innovation. The arts are empowering. They strengthen our spirit, stamina, and the ability for us to get through difficult times—just by participating. There can be no problem unsolvable, when creativity opens more possibilities. You rarely hear a child say, “I can’t draw, sing, or dance.” unless an adult has said it first. Without a whole lot of STEAM power, that future trip to Mars wouldn’t spark the imagination necessary enough to actually do it.
While there are schools solely designed and operating as STEM schools, most schools, today, have some sort of STEM programs, with the numbers of STEM offerings in those schools increasing. With the major focus today on STEM it is easy for the Arts to be left out for more reasons than just the obvious budget cuts. And ideas of pay-to-play for the arts are absolutely the wrong messages to send young people, especially those, who make new connections in only that way. That sort of sitting on the creative bench is completely avoidable.
Why shouldn’t it be STEAM? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that without the arts, especially the creative, and drawing parts, STEM wouldn’t get off the ground, down the river, to the center of the earth, or wherever invention, exploration, and imagination lead. Putting the “A” into STEM makes sense, and it gives us a song to sing, or whistle, while we work.
Reaching for the Stars
If we ask students to reach for the stars, conquer horrible diseases, figure ways to feed the world with limited resources, and share knowledge and learning with all, and for all—as a right and not as a privilege—we’d better be using a lot of STEAM power to do it. Putting the “A” for “Arts” in “STEM” fits. Leaving it out, in the long scheme of things, will be far too costly, and what we accomplish will be more enjoyably satisfying—and most likely greater if we do.
Editor’s Note: Connect Learning Today takes pride in supporting leaders and future dreamers, who will envision and create more than we ever thought imaginable or possible.