STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education has gotten a lot of attention lately. And for good reason – job openings utilizing STEM skills are projected to increase between 8-10% over the next ten years — more than twice the rate of other careers.
Just last year, the United States Department of Education launched the Raise the Bar: STEM Excellence for All Students initiative to strengthen Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics education nationwide. STEM education is vital in today's global economy, especially with rapid advancements in science and technology.
But recent graduates are finding their primary focus is not enough. Students who added Arts classes to the mix score 98 points higher on their SATs, and are four times as likely recognized for academic achievement. Generally speaking, when students complement their STEM education with Arts classes, they improve in both areas and are considered more hireable.
Only one in five STEM college students feel their prior education experience has prepared them for collegiate-level coursework in STEM. Incorporating STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics)-based learning from an early age increases college students' capacity to acquire necessary 21st-century soft skills, including the ability to ask questions, experiment, and create.
The Emergence of STEAM: The Intersection of Arts and Stem
The arts have been increasingly incorporated into STEM. When comparing STEM education to STEAM education, the addition creates a multifaceted approach to learning. STEAM education increases the capacity to think creatively. It also requires students to use their imaginations to solve unique problems. The addition of the arts increases the ability of students to hone critical skills in other areas of STEM.
A 2016 study demonstrated the impact of STEAM lessons on scientific learning for students in grades three through five. Students in high-poverty elementary schools who received nine hours of STEAM instruction improved their science abilities. Another study demonstrates that STEAM and literacy development can positively impact cognitive and math skills. As the educational landscape evolves, there's been a shift from the traditional STEM approach to a more inclusive STEAM methodology.
The Fundamentals of STEAM Education
STEAM education is an integrated approach that connects core concepts. It emphasizes cross-curricular connections, with standards and assessments integrated comprehensively. Key components of STEAM education include immersion in real-world applications, experimenting with innovative solutions, collaborating in teams, and fostering creativity.
The Significance of the “A” in STEAM
The “A” in STEAM has become increasingly crucial in STEM-based education. As U.S. students continue to lag in math and science, researchers have taken an intensive look into why this may happen. Students' negative attitudes about these content areas may be due to the rigidity in teaching these subjects, inhibiting creativity and exploration. Incorporating the “A” into STEM helps students understand that creativity exists within these contexts as we build a more comprehensive way to interact with information from our environments.
The Impact of Arts on STEM Learning
The arts have a significant impact on STEM learning. Incorporating the arts improves creative thinking in STEM-based education and enhances cognitive development. Successful STEM curricula include the arts to foster these essential 21st-century skills.
STEAM education nurtures many skills and is influenced by educational approaches and external factors such as parenting styles. STEAM learning promotes deeper information analysis, evidence evaluation, and the ability to draw meaningful conclusions about the world. These skills are critical in the ever-evolving global marketplace, where economies are increasingly interdependent.
The Artistic Mind in The Scientific World: Creative Thinking in STEM
For many artistic students, STEM learning can seem like something they are not passionate about. However, creative thinking is fostered in various ways in the STEM classroom. Introducing inquiry or project-based learning, creating flexible seating arrangements conducive to collaboration, and embracing mistakes are all ways creative thinking is fostered in the STEM environment. Teachers may also promote more independent learning processes where there is less surveillance and evaluation of the learning process.
Enhancing Cognitive Development Through the Arts
Current research claims that the arts are responsible for various neural activities. This includes critical cognitive skills, such as communication and focus, and emotional regulation, such as self-control and empathy. Babies with music training demonstrate increased mental capacity in speech processing. Older students with arts education perform better on writing tests, show increased compassion, and are more highly engaged in school. Memory retention also increases with exposure to the arts.
The Benefits of STEAM Education
STEAM education helps narrow the gap between theory and real-world application of information. Further, it promotes the development of soft skills that are increasingly important in the 21st-century workplace.
The Value of STEAM for Student Engagement and Learning
For students to be authentically engaged in learning, they must be allowed to be curious about the world around them, ask questions, brainstorm solutions, and test their hypotheses. Students need the freedom to explore content as it applies to their daily lives. Students who can learn in a hands-on environment internalize vital concepts and information more profoundly and meaningfully. This increases knowledge transfer beyond the classroom and into the future workplace.
Exploring The Reaches of STEAM: From Classroom to Community
STEAM education extends its reach far beyond the classroom environment. STEAM learning equips students with the skills necessary to be influential innovators and community leaders. By learning how to communicate, create, and problem-solve effectively, students build the capacity to lead their communities in new ways. This can play out in community organizations like non-profits, churches, etc.
Implementing STEAM Education: Practical Strategies
There are several practical strategies for implementing STEAM education within our schools. Teacher roles, instructional design, and professional development are all necessary for compelling STEAM learning experiences.
Teachers' Roles in Integrating Arts Into STEAM Education
Everyone can teach STEAM education. STEAM is based on integration, and it can happen at any time during the classroom experience. It is an approach rather than specific actions. Teachers must understand that STEAM is not a scripted curriculum. It is a style that promotes inquiry and curiosity about the world.
Effective STEAM instruction includes eliminating distractions, promoting dialogue, and staying flexible in the learning environment. Additionally, hands-on tools like Educational subscription boxes offer curated educational resources that further engage students in STEM and STEAM.
STEAM education is crucial for students to develop the skills necessary to thrive in the 21st-century workplace. With the addition of the ‘A' in STEM education, students will gain the capacity to create, innovate, and problem-solve in new ways. Increased STEAM programming will continue to prepare students for work in the ever-evolving marketplace as globalization continues to impact our global interdependence.