STEAM’s evolution from STEM
STEM is an acronym for the collaborative interdisciplinary practices between Science, Technology, Engineering, Math. STEM has its roots in mid 20th century US national policy. The initiative sought to boost performance in economic productivity and to create a well-educated work force that would include women. These initiatives did start important practices and dialogues in education bringing down discipline bound barriers. And by the early 21st century a new awareness evolved that STEM is missing a key component for holistic success.
The acronym STEAM came from the inclusion of A for the Arts in STEM. This inclusion is an excellent example of responsive practice by educators, corporations and individuals. Since early STEM initiatives, arts practice, and for that matter the understanding and usage of the arts, have also evolved greatly. STEAM is meant to be much-refined arts integration referred to the wave of the future embedded in the ideals of the past. Clearly the way for this important paradigm shift has been paved. Arts Educators need to respond.
Arts integration with Science is as old as Da Vinci and older if we look globally. We must not assume that STEAM is just another reincarnation of Education co-opting the Arts or vice versa. There is no lack of research, support or endorsement for STEAM. The Arts are closer today to Technology and the Sciences than they have ever been before since the Middle Ages.
The role of arts and learning organizations in STEAM
The A in STEAM represents a much broader and updated spectrum of the Arts capable of contributing to STEM processes. This range is not commonly understood. Schools and other organizations need the support of Arts Educators to access new Arts usages and knowledge bases. It is very much the role and responsibility of Arts and Learning organizations to respond to this need. Arts Educators need to systematically build their own capacity to ensure authentic STEAM practices.
Shaping our STEAM
Some points to consider as we update our understanding of what constitutes the Arts in STEAM (and certainly are guiding principles in our own program design)~THIS new A in STEAM …
- is a broad and inclusive A
- cannot afford to represent or agree to a limited understanding of the Arts
- will have to still be of a very high aesthetic quality
- will not allow cultural biases or snobbish conceptions of what represents Art devalue it
- must offer a wide range of Design-based, Drama-based, Music-based, Dance-based, Film/Photography-based and Visual Arts-based Literacies to serve as meaning-makers for STEM processes.
In STEAM practices the new A needs to aim at~
- being flexible
- seeking new collaborative arts expressions
- be an on ramp for students who are not turned on by STEM
- be the connective tissue between STEM disciplines
- make STEM concepts easy for differing abilities
STEAM, SOCIAL JUSTICE, CULTURAL COMPETENCE AND WELLBEING COME TOGETHER
Artists and artisans, scientists and mathematicians seek to find truth and beauty by asking deep questions. If we are to believe that we are all connected and that we can build a collective social intelligence and that this intelligence, inculcated at a young age, is our humanity, then this is where we’d like to start. STEAM supports learning about who we are while also ensuring equitable opportunities in building our individual and collective scientific knowledge, a SOCIAL JUSTICE value. CULTURAL COMPETENCE facilities understanding of our differences and encourages a Growth Mindset, an attitude that each and every one of us is capable of building social intelligence (diversity and equity). WELLBEING is knowledge of the value of happiness for us all and how universal truths and emotional intelligence including empathy, integrity, honesty, generosity and resilience builds global wellbeing.
Gender Equity gr 3/4 petri dish art ~ Charmaine Lurch ~ Rose Ave PS ~ PHOTO Kevin Arsenault
MacConville, Ruth and Rae, Tina. Building Happiness, Resilience and Motivation in Adolescents. A Positive Psychology Curriculum for Wellbeing. Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2012.
The Ontario Curriculum Grades 1 to 8, Health and Physical Education, The Ministry of Education, 2010. <www.edu.gov.on.ca>
Toronto District School Board Character Strengths. <http://www.tdsb.on.ca/ElementarySchool/Theclassroom/CharacterDevelopment.aspx>