Arts activists push to add Arts instruction to the STEM Movement in Education

By Julie DeVito, Arts For All Intern.

Arts activists push to add Arts instruction to the STEM Movement in Education

There may be good news for supporters of arts education in schools. A new initiative is calling for the integration of arts education into science, technology, engineering and math movement that has already been gaining momentum in the discourse around education reform.  The aspects of art that are being used to push the initiative include design and project-based learning. Although many proponents still believe that sustaining arts education in its own right is important, they argue that it’s also important to look at how art and design can be incorporated into other topics. Although the movement has no specifically defined origin, the Rhode Island School of Design has been championing the initiative since as documented on their site STEM to STEAM.

“Creative thinkers are going to be the next generation of innovators, and arts education really furthers that, and makes sure that we have the next generation of entrepreneurs, of creative thinkers and inventors,” said congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici.

Ryan Mather, a student of RISD actively involved in the STEAM initiative, spoke to me about the two most common thought paths of what STEAM actually encompasses. For some, STEAM is not STEAM unless it incorporates all of the aspects including Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Math. But for RISD, and many other proponents, the movement is about interdisciplinary integration in learning. For him, the application of the STEAM initiative for elementary aged students is the integration of the arts into the already existing classes.

“You might not necessarily have a separate arts class, but you might be happening to do art in all your other classes,” Mather said. “So in that respect it does provide a way for schools that are cutting arts programs to still have art be a valuable part of their education. But from a practical standpoint it is a solution that some districts need to use because they can’t make time for arts, which is kind of unfortunate.”
Although the future of STEAM in legislation in still unsure, RISD and other STEAM supporters have made progress in the last year. On February 14, 2013, the Bi-partisan House STEAM Caucus was formed and RISD hosted the launch in DC in cooperation with the Caucus Co-Chairs Suzanne Bonamici and Aaron Schock. As of December 2013, there were 54 members with representation from 24 states. Schools around the country are already beginning to integrate STEAM into their curricula, including MS 534 in Brooklyn where students participated in a pilot STEAM program where students used science to build their own cameras and then learned photography.

At Arts For All, we are working towards a world in which all children have access to artistic opportunities, whether it is through integration into the core subjects such as STEAM encourages, or on it’s own. At Arts For All, we integrate the arts into the common core already through our Literacy Through the Arts program. We believe that access to the arts helps children gain self-confidence, self-expression, and the ability to work in teams as well as be better prepared to face life challenges and opportunities.

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