Based on a need for children to tap into their creative and imaginative skills to get innovation flowing, the “A” (Art) has made its way into the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) acronym, and is now being explored in STEM education and cultural conversation.
Historically, art played a big role in the work of scientists like Leonardo da Vinci. In our innovation-driven world, there is a need to develop more innovative thinkers like da Vinci. To do that, we can put the A back into STEM and develop STEAM studies. Research shows the importance of doing that. A study by arts/science expert Robert Root-Bernstein, Ph.D. showed that science Nobel laureates, Royal Society, and National Academy of Sciences members were significantly more likely to engage in arts and crafts avocations. So, the top scientists in the US and England were much more likely to have experience in some form of arts or crafts than the general population.
6th graders create David Smith Cubi Series sculpture-inspired Energy Monitoring Station for Mars using grade-level science and art concepts
Recent National Endowment for the Arts-funded research by the Innovation Collaborative shows many benefits of STEAM experiences in K-12 learning settings. In this study, teachers used exemplary STEAM lessons by the top teachers identified in a previous Collaborative research study. The study found that:
- Compared to students who were in traditional art and science courses, secondary students exposed to STEAM learning had significantly more:
- Enjoyment of school
- Enjoyment of math
- Interest in science
- Perception of the importance of cross-disciplinary learning
- Perception of the arts as helping to learn science
- Among elementary students, there were significant gains between pre- and post-intervention in their enjoyment of:
- Learning math
- Learning science
- Thinking outside the box
- Students also developed deeper and more advanced understandings of creativity as a result of their STEAM experiences. This is significant, for it relates to the development of important workforce-related innovation skills.
- These findings were the same across ethnicities, demonstrating the impact of this approach for white and non-white students, alike.
- Also, educators involved in a related Innovation Collaborative National Endowment for the Arts-funded teacher professional development study reported that the STEAM approach used increased student academic self-concept. They also said that the STEAM approach helped them develop problem-solving and innovation in their own lessons. One teacher also reported that students developed a better understanding of science in his high school science classes and also remembered the material much longer than usual.
6th graders create paper engineering design with a circuit to solve a science problem
With STEAM, students enjoy school more, get prepared to think deeply and to think well so that they can become the innovators, educators, researchers, and leaders that solve future challenges and create new innovations.
Lucinda Presley is Chair and Executive Director of the Washington, DC-based Innovation Collaborative, a coalition of national arts, STEM, humanities, and higher education institutions. Crayola is represented on the Collaborative’s Advisory Council. For more information on the Collaborative, go to https://www.innovationcollaborative.org/