The goal of Arts in STEAM is to teach students the value of creativity, innovation, communication, and contemplation. These skills are often in high demand with the workforce, where creative solutions to problems are needed and where different perspectives can be useful.
In practice, STEAM is defined as arts integration, an approach to teaching and learning through which content standards are taught and assessed equitably in and through the arts. It’s the intentional weaving of academic study – typically math, science, social studies, and English and language arts – with arts disciplines such as visual art, dance, music, and theater.
Sometimes, students who self-identify as “artistic” shy away from STEM subjects. Because they view these subjects as technical in nature, they often see these areas as unrelated to their personal interests. However, when a STEM-based program incorporates activities that require students to think about marketing and designing their creations, students who are artistically inclined can feel a sense of belonging. For students who may not be motivated by math, the science, or even the technology, it may be the creative piece that gives them the spark they need to truly engage.
To ensure a high quality and effective STEM education, student engagement is essential. Because these types of subjects are at times inherently technical, students can lose interest if lessons lack interactivity. To combat this, educators can embrace hands-on learning techniques to increase interest and excitement. Incorporating art and design into lesson planning has been shown to increase engagement and improve students’ learning outcomes, and it gives students a sense of ownership over what they’re working on. This increased level of engagement improves students’ ability to retain information and encourages interest in learning more about the given subject.
As the world continues to evolve, the demand for creative solutions needed to address complex problems will continue to increase. Though curricula that focus on specific technical skillsets, such as coding boot camps, continue to grow in popularity, the importance of interdisciplinary STEM education has long been promoted by even the highest levels of our government. According to John Maeda, former president of the Rhode Island School of Design, the most creative and influential designs arise from the marriage of art and the sciences, as opposed to viewing these subjects as unrelated to each other.
The arts are an extremely broad field that encompasses a wide range of subjects, many of which have not traditionally been viewed as particularly “academic”. We can break the arts down into the sub-categories of fine arts, language arts, physical arts, manual arts, and liberal arts.
Prior to the concept of STEAM, many of these subjects were not considered critical to the end goal of developing students into highly skilled citizens, with abilities and qualifications that are in demand in the workforce. However, this view has since changed. The language arts, for instance, have cross-over with every other STEAM field because they focus on effective communication, while liberal arts are also considered important academic subjects.
Historically, fine arts and physical arts have struggled to be viewed as important vocational subjects, but this view has also changed. Today, there is a greater appreciation for the importance of developing creative and expressive skills. Clearly, there are many potential career options for people with drawing, painting, and performing skills.