How the Arts Can Help Redesign STEM Curriculums

Beyond the Microscope Blog Post | February 17, 2021

By Michaela Goss, Communications Volunteer

School science projects are rarely complete without a giant poster board, colorful lettering and pictures to help describe the project. Technical engineers who build software and websites can’t fully complete their jobs if they can’t picture how the end product will look and how the designs must come across.

The innate logic of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) classes and projects makes the acronym as a whole seem almost stiff – strictly logical, with formulaic answers and solutions and little room for much else. This, however, is not a full picture of STEM, as one critical element undercuts the field and is often overlooked: art.

This isn’t to say solving mathematical equations and painting go hand-in-hand. Instead, think of the scientific method. This starts with a question, which leads to research and a hypothesis. The mere act of developing that question and formulating a hypothesis based on known facts requires creativity. That creativity could be the spark many young students need to develop an interest in STEM.

Kids are known for having big imaginations, so the idea of a formal STEM education may lack pizzaz or a hook to draw them in. However, when they learn how mixing different chemicals can create a rainbow of beakers, or how to create a Punnett square and draw what that person would look like, or how to create a website, their imaginations are fed and could kindle a lifelong interest in STEAM.

Even if one looks at STEM and the arts as separate entities, they both share a common interest in driving innovation. Artists want to be as innovative in their careers as technologists and scientists.

In addition, having a career in both the arts and in STEM has benefitted various Nobel Prize winners. In fact, scientists who have won a Nobel Prize are more likely to also be painters or musicians than scientists who haven’t won the prize. Paired together, STEAM creates a force for innovation, a desire to foster the brightest minds, and enables those imaginations to picture a new invention, medium, or process that could drive the future.

The idea of STEAM education started with Georgette Yakman, who began to use this framework of integrating the stiff and logical with the open and creative in 2007. STEAM became so popular that Yakman was named teacher of the year and STEAM is now part of school curriculums across the nation.

As of 2019, nearly 3,000 teachers worldwide had worked with Yakman’s STEAM Education organization and implemented STEAM into their curriculums. The organization reported STEAM led to increased interest and engagement from students, as well as an enhanced ability for students to retain information.

The “A” in STEAM is nurtured at Kids In Tech, as the organization’s programs foster collaboration and have proven results, so kids can walk away with new skills and something to show for what they’ve learned.

Learn more about this topic in our upcoming Beyond the Microscope webinar “The Importance of Art in STEAM” on March 24th. Register here: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_H3x_vB9YQ6m_qyp4allBFw