The Passion and History of STEM to STEAM
The STEM movement has roots that date back to the 1990’s. That’s when the National Science Foundation officially fused together the subjects of science, technology, engineering, and math to create the now popular acronym S-T-E-M.
Yet some may say that the real roots of STEM go back further, to the 1950’s and 1960’s when our nation was engrossed in the Space Race. Before there was an acronym, we were fueled by the endless desire to innovate and surpass neighboring nations. Embodying the STEM spirit, our country dedicated itself to scientific education, technological advancement and space exploration.
Today the movement has a more tangible catalyst. Current and future jobs require STEM skills, but the pipeline of qualified workers is limited. We must rekindle the appetite for innovation in our youth.
K-12 schools have always taught math and science, right? Yes, but STEM education programs push the envelope on traditional curriculums.
Rather than sitting through lectures, students work collaboratively and dynamically on real-world problems and projects while leveraging technological tools. Strong STEM schools and teachers help students to learn by doing, rather than focusing on fact memorization. This approach better prepares youth for in-demand jobs and lets them get down and dirty with practical applications.
STEM to STEAM
Championed by Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), the STEM movement has evolved to STEAM – science, technology, engineering, art and math. The school teaches that in order to truly inspire the next generation, we must place art and design at the center of STEM education, connecting it with science and technology.
When the creative and limitless mind of an artist is married with the analytical and actionable brain of a scientist or technologist, that is when we achieve monumental advancements.
Tech alone doesn’t help us problem-solve, the secret sauce is creative thinking paired with technical know-how. We must universally weave art education into curriculums in order to effectively teach the coveted skills of flexible thinking, risk-taking and creative problem solving.
This doesn’t mean blown-out art classes, but rather science classes that incorporate the arts. This could be the creation of unique models and sculptures to more expressively teach a concept, or perhaps courses that encourage play, conceptualization and engagement of the senses.
When I think about STEAM, MythBusters comes to mind. The show’s host Adam Savage is the epitome of STEAM. His career is rich with art and design and science.
Starting as an actor, Savage progressed to fields such as graphic design, animation and film special effects. Pairing extreme creativity and deep technical understanding, he is able to effectively teach and inflict his passions and knowledge onto others. I believe he could be described as the walking vision of STEAM — teaching science, tech and math in ways that make them intoxicating, endlessly interesting, inspiring and forever open to possibility.
So, the critical mission tasked to us all, is that we embrace the STEAM mentality in order to help our kids learn while they play. With no perceived barriers between the worlds of art and science, they can become the influential makers of tomorrow.
With the heart of a maker, Bethany Cramer describes herself as ‘forever curious’ and is always looking for new ways to engage with art and technology. She is a marketer by profession and an advocate for youth’s early access to technical education. You can find her at @heybethanyrae on both Twitter and Instagram.