Many educators agree that the arts need to be incorporated into STEM but the question is ‘How do we add the arts into STEM?’
Anne Jolly is currently teaching a STEM/STEAM online course for Powerful Learning Practice with her arts expert buddy of 20 years – Nancy Flanagan. They are tasked with figuring out how to add the “A” in STEM.
They both have points of agreement, points of divergence, and plenty of questions. Here is what Jolly has to say:
We’ve discovered that there are some real differences of opinion in thinking about how the Arts should be incorporated – or even if they should be incorporated.
So let me run some of these ideas by you . . .
The Pure STEM Perspective. Many STEM advocates hold that the initiative was developed for one purpose: to deepen students’ understanding of fundamental concepts in science and math, and have them apply these using basic principles in engineering and technology. They have a point.
The U.S. is falling significantly behind other industrialized nations in preparing our students in the sciences and mathematics. (If you’re interested in the statistics that support this, go to Change the Equation for the details.)
The 2010 College and Career Readiness report found only 43% of graduates were ready for college work in math and 29% were ready in science. And – no surprise here – business leaders are sounding alarms concerning our students’ lack of preparation for the workplace.
So, from a purist point of view, a successful STEM education provides students with science, math, and engineering/technology in sequences that build upon each other and can be used with real-world applications to provide innovative solutions to problems associated with science and technology.
Adding other subjects would water down the focus on the core STEM competencies and weaken the initiative.
The Pure Art Perspective. In a similar fashion, some artists I know – the ones with a deep, rich love for Art (with a capital “A”) are also having a bit of trouble seeing Art as an add-on to STEM curriculum. Here’s a reaction from professional musician Scott Jolly (yes, he’s my son, at right) to the idea of adding Art to STEM:
When we perform, when we watch, we communicate. We commune with one another, laughing together, crying together, sharing moments. We realize our feelings, our desires, our fears are not unique, we are not in this alone.
And the great works of art and great artists are able to do this with a power and beauty that lifts our spirit, elevates our thinking and enriches our experiences. It’s the best part of what makes us human.
Engineering and technology can certainly serve the artist and evolve the art. But if we’re talking about how one can use art in engineering, as an artist, it seems you’re missing the point and de-valuing, or not realizing, Art’s purpose and importance. It seems you have it backwards.
So how do we add the arts into STEM?