STEAM - The Importance of Art in STEM Education
We know what you might already be thinking: "I only heard of STEM in just the past few years, now there’s STEAM education - what is that?" To put it simply, STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. The concept of a STEM curriculum was introduced in 2001 by scientific administrators at the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) following significant reports that concluded that US students were not achieving in the STEM disciplines at the same rate as students in other countries. It was predicted that in order to survive in an increasingly competitive U.S workforce, students needed an education that focused on STEM.
And so, STEM was born and implemented into schools all across the United States and beyond. It was meant to introduce 21st Century skills so that students gained proficiency in collaboration, questioning, problem-solving and critical thinking - all essential skills that were needed for a society that predicted the rapid growth of STEM related positions in the workforce by 2019.
This led to a rapid increase of rigorous math and science courses and teachings. Sounds great right? Well, further studies showed that engagement and interest declined amongst STEM saturated students. 40% of students that started a STEM related degree dropped out within four to five years and 60% of STEM graduates changed their mind post-degree and went on to work in a non related field.
Something was missing.
The move From STEM to STEAM
Education policymakers went back to the drawing board and many influential educators started to champion the introduction of the Arts into the STEM movement. They believed that STEM focused on innovation, but missed elements that were crucial for innovation - design thinking and creativity.
There was some debate amongst STEM enthusiasts who believed that studying ‘Arts’ would take away the emphasis on what they were trying to achieve with STEM. However, STEAM supporters explain that STEAM education explored the same subjects, but incorporated creative thinking and design into the STEM teachings.
Traditionally, the arts and sciences were viewed as two very different fields of study, but what STEAM education does is marry the two fields together to create a multi-disciplinary approach to technology development, robotics, industrial design, engineering and more.
Why are the ‘Arts’ so important for our children?
The ‘Art’ in STEAM represents visual arts, social studies, history, physical arts, fine arts and music. Art is about using creativity and imagination to increase the development of STEM’s essential skills, as well as enhance flexibility, adaptability, productivity, responsibility and innovation - all required skills for a successful career in any field of study.
Educators from Makeblock state that STEM may be necessary for technological progress, but without the arts they believe that it is impossible for students to reach their full potential because art subjects give students the freedom to harness the capabilities of STEM subjects. It increases interaction, makes the STEM topics more enjoyable, thought provoking and increases student engagement.
Slotting the arts into a child’s STEM education have proven benefits such as increased creativity, improved academic performance, increased motor skills, higher decision making skills, better visual learning and an enhanced learning experience:
- Increased Creativity. In today’s US society, technology is advancing and developing at lightning speed. Creative thinking skills are essential for innovation and keeping up with this ever changing industry. It teaches children to think outside the box and allows them the freedom to explore different designs and ideas that no one has thought about before.
- Improved Academic Performance. A report from the Americans For The Arts Foundation showed that students that took four years of arts and music classes while they were in high school scored an average of 92 points higher on their SATs than their counterparts who only had one year of art education.
- Increased Motor Skills. Educators from Stratford School tell us that children who engage in creative arts and music classes from a young age are more likely to develop better hand-eye coordination, focus and fine motor skills which are essential for jobs that require a steady hand such as robotics.
- Higher Decision Making Skills. Allowing creativity and imagination to flow freely can lead to improving a child’s problem solving skills as they learn how to interpret information and voice their ideas and opinions in a creative, confident way.
- Better Visual Learning. The STEAM aspect of visual arts combined with scientific projects can help students reflect on their scientific studies through creating drawings or paintings. Not only does it make the project more fun and enjoyable for the student, but it can also encourage more focus, improve observation skills and can support problem solving skills. Manipulative visual arts such as sketching, photography, and origami have been reported to be effective for spatial intelligence, which is a crucial attribute of successful STEM professionals. Drawing activities help students learn quicker and more effectively.
- Enhanced Learning Experience. Studying STEM subjects can be intense and daunting for students who are unfamiliar or disconnected from these subjects. Involving the arts into STEAM projects can help students understand science, technology, engineering and mathematics in a different way, increase engagement when they connect the artistic mediums that they enjoy to these projects and allow them to explore these subjects in a non-pressured environment.
STEAM in the U.S.
As mentioned above, technology is fast becoming the most innovative and fast growing industry in our Siri and self-driving car society. Innovative design and creative craftsmanship could not be more important. Let’s take Apple as an example.
In 2016, Apple sold over one billion iPhones, a fifth of the global market share. How? Loyal iPhone buyers appreciated the brand’s cutting edge innovation, distinctive design and attention to fine detail. Steve Jobs was a huge advocate for the movement of STEAM education, thanks to his experience working at Pixar. He once said:
"It's in Apple's DNA that technology alone is not enough—that it's technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our hearts sing.”
Today, the relevance of the Arts is gaining momentum across the USA and is now widely seen as an important primary academic subject. School curriculums in 48 states now have the arts incorporated into their STEM programs and have witnessed the benefits it brings to their students. However, a study conducted by Kent State University found that despite the increased focus on including the arts within STEM programs, at least 51% of art teachers still felt that the focus was still primarily on the original STEM subjects.
At Sprout, we believe that combining the arts with the sciences equals a healthy balance of education, exploration, creativity and academic progress. By igniting both sides of the brain - the left (analytical thinking) side and the right (imaginative thinking) side - can create some of the best thinkers of our future generation. It teaches them essential skills that will benefit them in and out of the workforce. In a world full of new opportunities and expanding fields of work, a great STEAM education can really help students prepare and excel in an ever changing workforce and produce some of the greatest inventions and innovations the world is yet to see.
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Arts Attack is devoted exclusively to developing and publishing high quality, easy-to-teach, video and video-based visual art curricula for the elementary and middle school. Used extensively by both the trained art specialist and the classroom teacher, the Arts Attack curriculum is known for enabling all teachers to achieve exceptional artwork from their students and for its process-oriented and experiential approach to teaching. It teaches to the right side of the brain, developing learning and creative skills that enhance student performance in all areas and throughout life.
Since its initial introduction in early 1997, the Arts Attack curriculum has been adopted and implemented in thousands of schools and districts throughout the United States.
The goal of the program is to teach every child how to express himself/herself through art. This demands that the students learn to see and experience the world in a different way. The language of art, like the language of words, requires the learning of skills and concepts that will allow the free flow of expression.
The goals of Arts Attack are to teach the elements and principles of art and drawing in a developmental and sequential way, as well as to study the art of other artists, cultures and historical periods. In all areas of study, the emphasis is on motivation and self-expression.
Recognizing that children learn what they are excited about, the subjects of the Arts Attack lessons have been selected through years of working with students in the classroom. The focus of the hands-on lessons is to utilize the process of visualizing, synthesizing and expressing through a wide variety of media.
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