STEM, or science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education has been a major component to 21st-century learning in K12, but some say the acronym needs to be more inclusive. Several groups created by educators have emerged to support the push for the addition of an “A” to STEM, for STEAM, to represent the disciplines of art.
In June 2011, The Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) worked with Rep. James Langevin to introduce Resolution 319 to the U.S. House of Representatives, which stated: “adding art and design into federal programs that target the…STEM fields encourages innovation and economic growth.” The resolution would have encouraged districts to include art and design in STEM during the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
Though the resolution failed, Babette Allina, RISD’s director of government relations, says her team plans to reintroduce the resolution. “STEM is a little bit narrow, and critical thinking occurs across multiple disciplines,” she says. “Art and design sits at the same table as STEM.”
Other groups express similar beliefs, such as STEAM Manifesto and STEAM Not STEM, the latter saying STEM itself is too logic driven, and that arts-related programs “support and foster creativity, which is essential to innovation.”
However, STEM education consultant and blogger Doug Haller argues that while encouraging art and design in STEM is important, it is already represented in well-implemented K12 programs. “One thing that’s being confused here is people don’t think the arts are already being included in a strong STEM program,” he says.
He explains that students working in STEM disciplines flex their creativity and innovation via experimental methods, critique, and presentation of their work. “The idea that you need to put the ‘A’ in STEM is missing the point, which is that a good scientific process and a good creative process and being disciplined and organized are a part of successful artists and successful scientists,” Haller concludes.
STEAM Education, www.steamedu.com
STEAM Through Education, www.steamthrougheducation.com
STEAM Not STEM, www.steam-notstem.com
Rhode Island School of Design, STEM to STEAM, www.stemtosteam.org