Monday, January 9, 2012

Adding Arts to STEM: Making STEAM

By Sam Piha

Thinking about how to promote STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) in afterschool is a topic that has everybody talking; this includes activities during the school year and in the summer. A recent article in Education Week focused on efforts to gauge girls in STEM activities, and featured Techbridge, a Bay Area program.

The Afterschool Alliance recently published a paper offering an analysis of the impact and outcomes of attending a high-quality afterschool program that emphasizes STEM activities. They found that “attending high-quality STEM afterschool programs yields STEM-specific benefits that can be organized under three broad categories: improved attitudes toward STEM fields and careers; increased STEM knowledge and skills; and higher likelihood of graduation and pursuing a STEM career.”

Now many STEM advocates are making the case that adding the disciplines of art and design to STEM activities (STEAM) greatly enhances the learning experience. A recent EdWeek article explored the idea of merging the arts with STEM to further unlock students’ creativity and innovation.

The National Science Foundation has underwritten a number of conferences on this subject, including hosting a forum at Rhode Island School of Design titled, “Bridging STEM to STEAM: Developing New Frameworks for Art-Science-Design Pedagogy.”

What do you think? Should the arts be integrated into afterschool STEM activities?

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