How Does Art Fit into STEM
One of the first things a student learns is their ABC’s and 123’s. Right? While that may still apply for preschoolers, a dramatic rise in the interest of STEM subjects has occurred. With good cause too, as the National Science Foundation estimates that 80% of the jobs available during the next decade will require math and science skills.1
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. These have been established as the necessary foundation for many career opportunities in the 21st century. According to College Atlas over half of the career fields and well over one-third of all jobs will need a foundation in one of these areas. That is indeed foundational.2 As we continue on into an uncertain future, one of the few certainties is that we will need trained specialists in these areas.
But have you heard about STEM(+art)?3 It spells STEAM, something only a creative eye would have considered. So, how do the arts fit into a system filled with left-brained activities? While innovations seem to rely on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, the missing component is Art and Design.
Many believe teaching only science and math, while ignoring the arts, is incomplete. It is an old ideal gaining new and wide-spread appeal. “Early photographer Charles Négre (1820–1880) is a classic example of the combination of art and science in one creative personality.” A student of painting, Négre became awestruck with daguerrotype, the first publicly available photographic process.4 It wasn’t simply new technology that inspired him, but the science behind photography.
In 1851 he eloquently summed up the notion of STEAM.
“Where science ends, art begins,” Négre wrote. “When the chemist has prepared the sheet, the artist directs the lens and the three torches of observation, feeling and reasoning guide the study of nature; photography invokes effects that make us dream, simple patterns excite us, powerful and bold silhouettes that surprise and frighten us.”4
With a lot of majors in the fields of Science, Math and Technology, Grace College has the foundations of education covered. And with three new majors offered in the world of Engineering, STEM is fully accounted for. But even as STEAM begins to gain wide spread appeal, Grace has already been concentrating on an educational process which focuses on the entire person.
A good example of this would be the course titled Faith, Science and Reason, a core class required for all Grace students.5 Education is aimed at the whole person. It is one reason why Grace College graduates are able to apply creativity and imagination to their prospective fields.
Will adding art back into the fold simply increase the amount of time a student can expect to spend in college? In a word, no. STEAM is not about spending less time on STEM subjects and picking up a paintbrush. Rather, STEAM is about applying the creative skills people already possess. The idea is to use creativity to influence what is necessary in STEM careers. Proponents of STEAM argue the movement is about “sparking students’ imagination and helping students innovate through hands-on STEM projects.”6
The research shows this is not something that should wait until college. A group of honors-level STEM graduates from MSU were studied between 1990 and 1995. Those that were also exposed to the arts were more likely to be those who owned their own businesses or had received patents.7
Success in life continues to be found in a balance of life. This is something believed and modeled here at Grace College. Quality education is a given, but so is a caring Christian community. Along with a focus on spiritual transformation, opportunities are given to express the whole of one’s being.