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‘STEAM’ education gains momentum in schools
A growing number of experts say the arts should be included in STEM education initiatives
Examples of “STEAM education” are cropping up across the nation.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that the city’s 2013 Summer of Learning initiative will focus specifically on STEAM learning activities.
Emanuel’s announcement is part of an overall plan to boost the city’s education efforts. Those efforts include opening five “early college” STEM education schools, implementing a new arts education plan in the city’s public schools, a $1 million investment in 60 school learning gardens to link nutrition and science, and launching a program called College to Careers for City Colleges of Chicago students.
In Atlanta, the Drew Charter School includes a specific focus on “STEM to STEAM.” The K-8 school’s teaching methods include:
- An interdisciplinary program integrating the five areas of science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics.
- An inquiry-based instructional program with real-world context.
- Emphasis on design and problem solving, leading to applications.
In 2012, the Georgia Charter Schools Associated named Drew Charter School the Georgia Charter School of the Year. The school has plans to begin building a new facility, with room for a freshman class, in early 2013.
An online petition seeks support for U.S. House Resolution 319, which was introduced in 2011 but not enacted and seeks to “encourage members of the House of Representatives to support the addition of art and design to [federally supported] STEM programming …, effectively turning STEM to STEAM.” As of press time, this petition had gathered nearly 2,300 signatures. RISD encourages visitors of the STEMtoSTEAM.org website to track the resolution’s status and sign the petition.
Sesame Street, currently in its 43rd season, has focused for years on STEM education, but this year the show has added the arts to its programming and upgraded its focus to STEAM education.
“The cornerstone of the curriculum remains the connection between the four main domains: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, but the updated approach integrates the arts. This helps make learning STEM concepts relevant and enticing to young children by highlighting how artists use STEM knowledge to enhance their art or solve problems. It also provides context for the importance of STEM knowledge in careers in the arts,” according to a statement from the popular children’s television show.
“As STEM topics continue to be a critical area of a preschooler’s early education, it is important to allow children to explore these concepts through various channels, especially the arts,” said Rosemarie Truglio, senior vice president of education and research at Sesame Workshop. “Incorporating the arts into our STEM curriculum was an exciting and natural addition, as Sesame Street has always used music, visual, and performing arts as tools to educate and entertain children.”
Major companies and groups are picking up the cause as well.
“Cultivating organizational creativity in an age of complexity,” a companion study to the 2010 IBM Global Chief Human Resource Officer Study, looks at why some organizations are better at innovating and adapting to change. According to the study, creative leadership is key; IBM researchers found that “creative leadership in action enables a wide range of product, process, and business model innovations.”
“State of Create,” an April 2012 study from Adobe Systems (a maker of popular desktop publishing and creativity tools, such as Photoshop, InDesign, and Dreamweaver), took a look at how creativity is viewed in the workplace, at school, and at home.
Part of the study examines what it calls the “creativity gap,” noting that people spend just 25 percent of their time at work creating, and many report there is increasing pressure to be productive rather than creative at work.