‘STEM TO STEAM’ It’s not left brain or right brain...
Many of us are familiar with the educational focus on learning in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math, commonly known as the STEM disciplines. This “movement” in education has helped parents and students to better understand the importance of market-ready skills.
BY: GREG WATTS
Full ‘STEAM’ ahead
More than a decade ago, state-supported initiatives at the Rhode Island School of Design pushed an ‘A’ into the STEM game. The addition of Art(s) was not a self-serving move — it was a building of awareness. It recognized a shift toward an era of collaborative practice that would include creativity: STEAM. Read about Leonardo Da Vinci or watch the great film Tim’s Vermeer and you can see that embracing ‘art’ into invention and innovation is not anything new — it’s simply a renewed appreciation.
A Google search for ‘STEM to STEAM’ produces 22,400,000 results in under a second. It would appear that there is a keen awareness of this proposition. How then does this shift to STEAM apply in the ‘real’ world? For parents, businesses and educators, there is a marvelous opportunity at hand: an opportunity to change, to adapt. Or to use the vernacular…innovate.
The application for this jazzy little phrase, ‘STEM to STEAM’ is important. A confluence of all areas of study has the potential breadth to spark a multitude of collaborations that can lead us to as yet indiscernible places. When the sole inventor, researcher, artist is asked to collaborate and share pioneering investigations in an open-source environment, innovation will happen.
As a studio artist myself who has dabbled in the mechanics of printmaking and in-turn the use of photography, I have used facets of STEM to achieve and create artworks. Those artworks are better because I embraced and included the curiosity of others, from multiple disciplines.
Educators too must innovate. We exist within a globally competitive environment. CEO’s surveyed by The Conference Board for ‘The CEO Challenge’ recently stated that continuous innovation is THE business skill that is most sought after. Those of us in education have a responsibility to evolve our curriculum to provide an education that fashions ‘qualified applicants.’
The STEM to STEAM movement is being widely adopted by institutions, businesses and individuals. From the Dallas-area Boys & Girls Club adding ‘education’ to ‘recreation’ with programs that include music to Sesame Street launching in-program segments that embrace the arts, we must encourage youth to create early and collaborate often — and not quit.
Everyone can apply creativity in their workplace. A textile weaver using engineering to enhance the fabric’s durability can certainly be as valuable as an engineer using art to imagine a helicopter’s rotor blade. Neither is better. And together they may spot something entirely ‘new’. Innovation through collaboration.
Left brain and right brain
If we aspire to be a society that maintains and grows our cultural assets, then we will concurrently meet today’s marketplace and employment challenges. Let’s celebrate the so-called differences — it’s not left brain or right brain, it’s the brain. Let’s put our brains to work, together. Incorporate opposing ideas…innovate…collaborate…and see what we can produce. No discovery or innovation is made without risk and creativity.
Greg Watts is the dean of the College of Visual Arts and Design at the University of North Texas.