In addition to science, technology, engineering, and math, STEM education focuses on how the four pillars are interconnected. It involves the application of information and growing problem-solving, observational, and exploratory skills.
The addition of art to STEM education, growing the acronym to STEAM, first championed by John Maeda, artist, author, and former president of Rhode Island School of Art and Design, makes science, technology, engineering, and math experiments more entertaining and approachable. That’s just one reason why art was added to STEM education. Here are six more:
- The arts are already a vital part of science, technology, engineering, and math. “Art and design have played a prominent role in STEM, whether it’s pointed out to people or note,” says Liz Heinecke, author of several STEAM project books for children. Jackie Speake, Ed.D., STEM education consultant and author agrees, saying “STEM lessons naturally involve art (for example, product design), language arts (communication, and social studies and history (setting the context for engineering challenges).”
- Arts make STEM topics more engaging—even to kids who don’t think they like science or math. “If we can get kids to see math as art and beauty and nature, that changes the way they think about the world and the way they approach subjects in school,” Says Heinecke.
- Doing hands-on projects and experiments that involve the arts solidifies a child’s understanding of concepts. Seeing concepts in action inspires kids to seek them out. Plus, the creation process can be more memorable than a lecture or slides.
- STEAM connects your child’s interests to the real world. “Kids connect best with things when they can touch, see, or understand how to use it in everyday life,” Heinecke says. “One great thing about adding the arts is that it’s just another way to connect their interests in the real world to the STEM disciplines.”
- The arts show children how to be creative problem solvers, and the value of mistakes. Mental arithmetic and equation solving abilities are important skills for engineers to possess, but creative approaches to problem solving truly make a difference. Art gives kids a place to make interesting mistakes and challenge themselves, especially because there isn’t always a right answer in art.
- Art reduces STEM’s intimidation factor—and helps raise informed children. “Not every kid has to be a scientist or engineer, but the more you embrace the STEM disciplines, the better citizen of the world you’ll be,” says Heinecke. “The more well-informed people are as children, the more they’ll grow up to be well-informed adults.”