STEM vs. STEAM
Before I chose a career in education, I was on the path to be a mechanical engineer. I had taken numerous Detroit Area Pre College Engineering Program (DAPCEP) classes focusing on engineering. I had attended summer engineering programs at Michigan State University, University of Michigan, and Kettering University. I was engulfed in STEM and so no place for the arts. This carried over into my pre-service training when I was an undergrad at Michigan State working towards my math degree. I couldn’t see how the arts could fit in. As I went through my year long internship, teaching Algebra 2 and Precalc, my focus was on incorporating technology, but only through the lenses of STEM. Years of focus on STEM changed when I was assigned to teach Geometry. Personally, I didn’t like geometry because of my high school and college experience with the class. I can admit I felt doubtful of being able to effectively teach it since there was a lot I needed to relearn. But as I began to teach it, I finally saw the light. Society is so focused on STEM and being competitive with the rest of the world. It is expected that as Americans we the innovators of the world. However, we can’t compete and keep up with the ever changing society if we continue to leave out the arts.
Innovators are considered to be creative. Society wants educators to train the next generation of thinkers and creators. It’s our job to prepare the innovators. How can we effectively do so when we are drastically cutting art programs? Art teaches us to think outside the box and how to create something new. Isn’t this what we want? To have students use the technology and have the knowledge to be innovators and use the skills to solve the world’s problems? Insert STEAM.
Teaching Geometry has pushed me to see where art fits into math. Art inspires creative thinking. When we combine mathematical skils and art, you get some amazing student work. My first eye opening experience was my mini golf project. They had to create a mini golf hole and show me mathematically how to get a hole in one with one, two, and three strokes. On paper, it sounds easy. In application, its very challenging and requires a lot of creative thought and critical thinking. My next eye opener was my dream mansion project. Designing a home is more than just picking out the paint and the furniture. It’s looking at the size, the shape, the area, and the surface area of each room.
Danah Henriken discusses how the arts should be integrated into the sciences. The future depends on those who can fuse science and art together to be innovative and creative. It needs those who can think across content and think outside the box. Currently, we are teaching student to think inside the box and to follow the rules. We have the possibility to expand students’ minds by moving from STEM to STEAM. Henriken studied 2008 National Teacher of the Year, Michael Geisen, to show how he incorporates art into his middle school science class room. His thought on STEAM he gave really resonated with me:
“Most people tend to simply equate creativity with a particular art form. If you can draw, you’re creative. Or if you’re musical, then you’re creative. But it’s much more broad than that…the best scientists are highly creative. The best mathematicians are extremely creative” (Henriken, 2014, p. 2)
As I’m looking towards a new school year of teaching geometry, I’m thinking of new ways to incorporate art into STEM to allow for students to think outside the box.
Henriksen, D. (2014). Full STEAM ahead: Creativity in excellent STEM teaching practices. The STEAM journal, 1(2), 15.