Everyone has heard of STEM.
Officially established in 2006, STEM is a framework for learning in order to apply and integrate the four subjects to solve challenges and problems that are relevant.
In 2007, Georgette Yakman was one of the advocates for a new acronym: STEAM
She defined it as:
“Science and technology, interpreted through engineering and the arts, all based in elements of mathematics.”
“It appears that, even within contemporary times, those at the forefront of innovation have been merging arts and science practice,” says Professor Katie Normington, “Nobel laureates in the sciences are seventeen times likelier than the average scientist to be a painter, twelve times as likely to be a poet, and four times as likely to be a musician.”
I explained this concept to Swethaa Suresh and she told me, “I don’t really know how to explain it but it makes sense.” Swe is a junior at SAS who is taking two science classes and would have taken two math classes if it were not for schedule issues. She is also heavily involved in technical theatre. “STEAM makes sense because creativity definitely correlates with STEM subjects. For example, when I am designing the aesthetic of the lights on stage. It is electrical engineering and art.”
In fact, the list of ‘correlations’ is endless. Vince Bertram of the Huffington Post writes, “The Corvette Stingray is an engineering marvel and one of the top-performing automobiles on the market. But, it’s also aesthetically appealing. The same could be said for your new lightweight running shoes.”
Head of high school visual arts and AP art teacher, Barbara Harvey says that STEAM is what she knows to be right. “So when I get my engineering student who gets into Harvey Mudd College and her professors ask why she is different, she’ll always think back to art and how she was forced to think creatively. There is a kid who is going into environmental science who is graduating this year. Half of her college interview was about how she was a four-year art student.”
Computer Science teacher Mr. Rudwick explains, “I definitely see it applying to CS. Creativity is a large part of not getting tied too much to a single solution because the solutions are endless.”
There is no denying that in order to really thrive in any STEM subject one needs to be a creative thinker. However, this all goes back to the idea that both STEM and STEAM are frameworks for teaching. STEM subjects should be taught through real-world application problems, while STEAM is that but with the essence of creativity and flexible thinking. A relevant SAS example of this is a level 4 (most challenging level) question on a math test: “We assess whether you can creatively answer those questions, and we encourage things that are way out there. We have the answer but we want to see how you get there,” explained Mrs. Murgatroyd.
Ms. Harvey added, “You are going to be to look at something that has been pigeonholed into one viewpoint for so long and be able to look at it in multiple viewpoints because you decided to pick up a paintbrush. In art we take risks.”
Although (for some) the one mandatory art credit is a challenge to attain, STEAM is not just about being ‘inclusive’, but about nurturing students’ curiosity and helping them develop problem-solving and critical thinking skills.
At SAS, subjects are still disconnected, besides the more common Social Studies to English, and Math to Science overlaps. 21st-century learning, however, is about the interconnectedness between courses like Math and Social Studies, for example. In actuality, SAS is beginning to do this by crossing PLC’s. The fact of the matter is, the standards of academics are being changed in order to train the mind of students to ‘succeed’ in anything. Why should students be creative or academic, when they can be both?
Physics teacher Mr. Crawford explains, “Students should take physics and ceramics and everything else. Every discipline trains your mind to think differently.”
High school is a time to explore every kind of subject and expand knowledge. So whether it be called STEM or STEAM or STREAM or STEMM, there is only one goal in mind: To learn.