Adding arts education to STEM to produce STEAM

28 Aug

In STEM majors profit college students of color, moi wrote:

The Teaching Institute for Excellence in STEM defines STEM:

 What is STEM Education?

Science Technology Engineering & Mathematics

In 2001, Judith A. Ramaley, a former director of the National Science Foundation’s education and human-resources division was credited by many educators with being the first person to brand science, technology, engineering and mathematics curriculum as STEM. It was swiftly adopted by numerous institutions of higher education as well as the scientific communities as an important focus for education policy focus and development.

TIES always views STEM instruction and the STEM resources that support the instruction with a trans-disciplinary lens. Issues in our world arise and are demanding of solutions. Since before Da Vinci, we have taken up this call to action through the design process. It asks for a multiplicity of pathways to offer a series of plausible solutions. From that process has come the power of prototyping, and beta testing. Rarely have our classrooms offered children the chance to engage in such questioning and processes. Now, through STEM education we have the chance to invite our children to look at their school work as important to the world.

For information on how TIES STEM Consulting can work with your organization to launch a comprehensive STEM curriculum program contact us at 443-955-9168 or via email .

Many are asking whether the focus on STEM education is too narrow and arts should also be added to the curriculum to produce STEAM.

Mozart was a child prodigy. Most of us don’t come close to possessing his gifts. The Journal Times reported about the “Mozart effect.” Mozart Effect

Scientific research has found some basis for the notion that music instruction stimulates general intelligence. About 10 years ago that was called the Mozart effect, the result of some research that reported that listening to a Mozart sonata increased the ability of some college students on a test of mental ability. Popular wisdom twisted that into the notion that listening to music makes you smarter, which is more magic than science. What scientists say at the moment is that music instruction will make you smarter about music, and that for music to help children they need to begin instruction really, really early.

Music consists of rhythms and mathematic like patterns which change a child’s brain and way of thinking. Research which was published in the Journal of Neuropsychology suggests that children who study music will as adults will benefit from music study. The research shows “….that the region of the brain involved in verbal memory is larger in adult musicians than in those who are not musicians.” Mental Ability Affected by Music Study  Further, Rauscher’s study concludes “the research suggests that music may act as a catalyst for cognitive abilities in other disciplines, and the relationship between music and spatial-temporal reasoning is particularly compelling.” Music Affects a Child’s Cognitive Ability

Steven Ross Pomeroy writes in the Scientific American article, From STEM to STEAM: Science and Art Go Hand-in-Hand:

Renewing our focus on STEM is an unobjectionably worthwhile endeavor.  Science and technology are the primary drivers of our world economy, and the United States is in the lead.

But there is a growing group of advocates who believe that STEM is missing a key component – one that is equally deserved of renewed attention, enthusiasm and funding. That component is the Arts. If these advocates have their way, STEM would become STEAM.

Their proposition actually makes a lot of sense, and not just because the new acronym is easy on the ears. Though many see art and science as somewhat at odds, the fact is that they have long existed and developed collaboratively. This synergy was embodied in great thinkers like the legendary Leonardo Da Vinci and the renowned Chinese polymath Su Song. One of Carl Jung’s mythological archetypes was the artist-scientist, which represents builders, inventors, and dreamers. Nobel laureates in the sciences are seventeen times likelier than the average scientist to be a painter, twelve times as likely to be a poet, and four times as likely to be a musician.

Camouflage for soldiers in the United States armed forces was invented by American painter Abbot Thayer. Earl Bakken based his pacemaker on a musical metronome. Japanese origami inspired medical stents and improvements to vehicle airbag technology. Steve Jobs described himself and his colleagues at Apple as artists.

At TED 2002, Mae Jemison, a doctor, dancer, and the first African American woman in space, said, “The difference between science and the arts is not that they are different sides of the same coin… or even different parts of the same continuum, but rather, they are manifestations of the same thing. The arts and sciences are avatars of human creativity.”

Despite the profound connection between art and science, art programs across the nation are on the chopping block. In June, the U.S. House of Representatives proposed significant funding cuts to the National Endowment for the Arts. Schools nationwide are eschewing art programs to instead focus on teach-to-the-test courses catered to math and reading. The problem here is that a narrow focus on testing reinforces narrow-minded thinking. Young Americans are being educated out of creativity.

By teaching the arts, we can have our cake and eat it, too. In 2008, the DANA Arts and Cognition Consortium, a philanthropic organization that supports brain research, assembled scientists from seven different universities to study whether the arts affect other areas of learning. Several studies from the report correlated training in the arts to improvements in math and reading scores, while others showed that arts boost attention, cognition, working memory, and reading fluency.

Dr. Jerome Kagan, an Emeritus professor at Harvard University and listed in one review as the 22nd most eminent psychologist of the 20th century, says that the arts contribute amazingly well to learning because they regularly combine the three major tools that the mind uses to acquire, store, and communicate knowledge: motor skills, perceptual representation, and language.

Art and music require the use of both schematic and procedural knowledge and, therefore, amplify a child’s understanding of self and the world,” Kagan said at the John Hopkins Learning, Arts, and the Brain Summit in 2009.

With this realization in mind, educators across the nation are experimenting with merging art and science lessons. At the Wolf Trap Institute in Virginia, “teaching artists” are combining physical dance with subjects like math and geometry. In Rhode Island, MIT researcher Jie Qui introduced students to paper-based electronics as part of her master’s thesis exploring the use of technology in expressive art. Both programs excited students about science while concurrently fueling their imaginations. A potent blend of science and imagination sounds like the perfect concoction to get our country back on track.

The steps in the learning process are summarized in a booklet authored by Stella Vosniadou. How Children Learn Among her findings are the following key concepts that are necessary in the learning process:

1.        Active involvement – students must pay attention and participate in learning

2.        Social participation – children internalize the culture and habits of the communities where they live

3.        Meaningful activities – activities should relevant and have some real world application that it understood by the child

4.        Relating new information to prior information – the Westport program has designed its curriculum in accord  with this finding

5.        Being strategic

6.        Engaging in self-regulation and being reflective – children should learn how to set goals and plan

7.        Restructuring prior knowledge – children have to learn how to solve internal inconsistencies

8.       Aiming at understanding rather than memorization – the Westport program is attempting to promote understanding and a firm foundation for proceeding to the next set of principles.

Learning and mastery of a subject is important. But, so is nourishing the “whole child.” The arts are just as important to learning as are the sciences. STEM should become STEAM.


STEM Education Coalition

What Is STEM Education?

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

4 Responses to “Adding arts education to STEM to produce STEAM”


  1. Adding arts education to STEM to produce STEAM | Creative teaching and learning | - August 29, 2012

    […] In STEM majors profit college students of color, moi wrote: The Teaching Institute for Excellence in STEM defines STEM:  What is STEM Education? Science Technology Engineering & Mathematics In …Leona: Proposes that the arts are just as important to learning as are the sciences. STEM should become STEAM. Indeed will probably result in a more 'rounded' education.    […]

  2. Adding arts education to STEM to produce STEAM « Forward Ever, Backward Never - August 29, 2012

    […] on Like this:LikeBe the first to like […]

  3. Adding arts education to STEM to produce STEAM | Education in the African Diaspora | - August 29, 2012

    […] STEM, or Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics programs, have been on the rise in African American communities.  Is this the best method of teaching and highest use of potential for a culture which has been historically musically and artistically inclined?  STEAM seems to be a great step towards a more curricularly integrative approach.    Next step needed – placing as much importance on physical education and health of the body as on advancement of the mind.  […]

  4. Education trends: ‘Artful Thinking’ « drwilda - August 31, 2012

    […] […]

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