School curriculum including science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) has increased in popularity over the last few years as research has shown problem solving and critical thinking skills to be better developed when kids have participated in STEM projects in the classroom. However, some educators are suggesting that arts should be added to give kids a more well-rounded education. This idea is called STEAM. (STEM + Arts = STEAM) Let’s take a look at both sides.
The idea of STEM came from the need to change the way we educate kids so when they enter the job force they possess the skills needed for high demand jobs. “Students need more in-depth knowledge of math and science, plus the ability to integrate and apply that knowledge to solve the challenges facing our nation.” (www.edweek.com) “Children who study STEM also develop a variety of skills that are essential for success: critical thinking and problem solving, creativity and innovation, communication, collaboration, and entrepreneurship, to name a few.”
Supporters of STEM say that projects promote kids’ artistic abilities because creativity and innovation must be used to come up with solutions to problems. Therefore, they do not see the need to intentionally add the arts. STEM projects are already promoting creativity, communication, and writing skills. Simply taking a look around will show us that engineers are indeed a creative group as we witness the many marvels they have designed. Some educators believe that STEM should remain as it is and art should be supplemented separately in the classroom because it gives kids the opportunity for individual artistic expression vs. the team projects that are used in STEM.
Those that support the need for art to be added to STEM projects are including not just art, but also language arts, social studies, physical arts, fine arts, and music. All of these subjects would be represented by the “A” in STEAM. Supporters of STEAM are not suggesting that more time should be spent on art and less on math and science, but that adding the artistic component will promote critical thinking, design, and other artistic talents in creative ways. This will make STEAM projects more flexible and fun, which will appeal to a wider variety of children with different interests and strengths.
STEAM is a relatively new idea and educators are not sure what adding arts to science, technology, engineering, and math looks like in a classroom setting. As we move forward, one thing remains constant – we want to give kids the lifelong skills they need to be successful both in school and the workforce. Our world has changed significantly in the last thirty years and we need to adjust accordingly to keep kids engaged in the classroom and prepared for the future.