No acronym is perfect. We use them because of our excessive need to categorize everything. I suggest we accept the acronyms as reality, but not limit ourselves because of what we think it defines. There seems to be so much argument and discussion over the STEAM acronym. Again, I think this is a useful term to fuse the ideas of cross curricular learning. I also think that science and math teachers are very offended by the idea that arts skills invade their very important science and math curriculum. Some agree, many actually, that you can’t do all of this without the arts. Somehow those who teach science and math seem offended that the purity of their hard-core “more important” academic discipline is invaded by the addition of the arts.
In an ideal curricular world in which teachers have been taught to instruct across disciplines and their training includes multiple areas, I agree that the “A” in STEAM would automatically be happening. Since we all know this is the “ideal” and almost never happens, there is a need to address using the creative process to fuse with the scientific process. Science is a process of discovery, engineering is a problem-solving medium, mathematics is used to do both and we use technology as a tool to incorporate with the others. One can’t teach these core subjects separately but must integrate them. In doing so, the elements of design, creativity and critical thinking happen. Those are arts skills. So, I ask why argue as to whether it is STEM or STEAM, or even if it is necessary or not. Why waste energy to debate the acronym? All the acronyms are limited. It is an attempt to define and to better understanding, make it portable.
I know many scientists and engineers are offended that such endeavors as ‘making things’ invade their hard science or mathematics discipline. The problem solving needed in using the arts is endless. In creating any work of art there is a process, an order, and trial and error, all related to the discovery in science. In design, one needs to understand proportion and ratio, color etc. These are elements of math and science. The problem with assuming that teachers of those subjects will cover this material is that in reality they are not. I work with those teachers and as a result, speak from experience. Those teachers rarely have the background and understanding of those subjects to include them in curriculum. I am not saying it never happens, I am saying that it rarely happens. Many just aren’t comfortable, so why would you not want to give them the support needed to accomplish this long-term goal? Is it so offensive? Why do STEM people see the Arts as soft skills? Do you really believe that this should be kept on the periphery? Perhaps you need to read or re-read Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind? Or better yet, perhaps you should spend a semester as a music performance major at a music conservatory.
Teachers need support in crossing the lines that implement STEM education. Especially in K-8, the arts offer great opportunity for students to understand concepts or experience learning them. Concepts that otherwise may be too difficult or abstract can be learned. Why is this a problem? Learning and achievement are the goal however it happens. I understand this fear from my experience as musicians and music teachers believe their discipline is separate for the most part. They believe it so special, so complex, that one dare not fuse it with anything. I just don’t agree with that. Perhaps we need to agree to disagree. The reality is that one must educate to educate. One must strive to educate the whole child and yes, make each student career or college ready. I understand that is where STEM fits. I also will not give up on the value of adding the arts to a comprehensive complete education. The arts for the art’s sake and the arts as a tool for understanding the more practical routes of math and science belong in the forefront of curriculum.
Bottom Line: We need to stop talking and arguing about these things. We need to focus energy on educating our children. DONE.