Innovation has long been the driving engine for many countries and is the critical x-factor for which there can be no substitute. The STEM initiative, while laudable, is missing one critical ingredient…
For a long time, Art education and Science education seemed to be thought of as opposite poles on a continuum with free-thinking, loosey-goosey, unconstrained, anything-goes, visual arts on one extreme, and the rigid, hard-and-fast, unbreakable, unfeeling rules of mathematics on the other. Students were shuffled between both experiences in the lower grades until they were required to choose one to stick with, around the beginning of high school. Many view the STEM topics as where the real learning happened. A successful education in Math or Sciences would lead them down the road to a good university, and therefore a good job, a secure financial future, and a long happy life. It never occurred to anyone that Art and Science need not be opposites, but rather be different representations of a single set of skills.
STEM is being transformed into STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) in order to give students the skills necessary for innovation. Adam Savage, Mythbuster, Special Effect expert, and STEM Initiative spokesperson made mention of the STEAM movement during the 2012 Maker Fair, a convention that celebrates DIY projects of every conceivable fashion. (The discussion of STEAM education starts around 16:30 in the video below.)
“Art is where it begins!” Savage tells an enthusiastic crowd, “Art is the original mover! So, I say make, but make what you want… What unites us is we are creatures of creation.”
The STEAM movement is focused around injecting the creative thinking and expression from the arts programs into science-based education. This mix of technical understanding and creative thinking is the winning combination that will create a generation of innovators, ready to change the world in ways we cannot possibly imagine.
Ultimately, understanding science and math is important, but having the skills to take that understanding and create something new and amazing is what is going to make the future amazing.
Andrew Baxter is a Secondary School Teacher and Curriculum Specialist with Enable Education. He is still mad that his 10th grade physics teacher would not accept his assignments in the form of landscape oil paintings in the Early Netherlandish style.