STEAM versus STEM; Arts Education

The public is bombarded daily with a call to increase our children’s proficiency in the STEM subjects; science, technology, engineering and math. This is done in an effort to close the knowledge gap between our country and the balance of the world. I agree these subjects are an important part of any education but I believe they should be balanced with a dose of the letter A thus forming the word STEAM. A, as you can imagine stands for the arts ranging from music and art appreciation to literature. Who has not been moved by hearing a great piece of music for the first time, seeing a work of art that stirred the imagination, heard a speaker that inspired you to envision a better future or read a book encouraging dreams. These are all forms of art and they add balance to lives, make us more observant and develop a sense of graceful creativity. After all cavemen definitely used their STEM skills to survive and improve their lives, but they also took time to play music with rudimentary instruments and draw pictures on cave walls.

Earlier this week I attended a women’s conference and was inspired by two women under the age of 25. The first, an engineering graduate of Stanford University, knew how important encouraging education in the STEM subjects was to her life but she knew she wanted to inject these subjects with fun and balance. To this end she has created a multi million dollar toy company called GoldiBlox. Her toys created with girls in mind but also loved by young boys take the art of a story coupled with simple tools to foster creativity and kinetic skills. The toys are aimed at ages 5-10 and they take the child on a journey in the story with the main character, Goldie Blox ,to solve a riddle or problem while building an object they can use. This system not only makes the STEM subjects fun but couples them with the art of storytelling to foster creativity. The second young woman attending medical school after graduating from Yale University started a nonprofit at the age of 15 while recovering from an illness. At that time she met an ill writer, who inspired her to envision what she wanted out of life and then believe she could obtain it. Today her organization, girltank.org, sponsors women around the world to educate themselves, improve the communities they live in and inspire others to think creatively to envision a future of freedom and prosperity. Hearing both of these young women speak had me on the verge of tears because it reminded me of the goals and desires that inspire me daily.

I will leave you with a quote from Martin Luther King attesting to the value of the arts in education to create a whole person,”The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”

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