Finding the Art Within

Posted by Anne Cushing-Reid, Mar 02, 2016 0 comments

Have you ever had an experience and realized, in that very moment, that your way of thinking was changed forever? That happened to me a couple of weeks ago when I found myself at a meeting of our local STEM collaborative. Through a series of seemingly unconnected events, I was about to begin my journey toward understanding the potential of the STEM to STEAM concept but not the way you might think.

The meeting was like those you’ve probably attended in your work. There was discussion about collaboration and partnership. There was discussion about sponsorships and resources. And then the discussion turned to the challenges faced by the STEM community:

  • How can we get more teachers interested and trained to integrate STEM?
  • How can we get STEM learning into the school day and not just in after-school clubs?
  • How can we compile and create a data base of lesson plans and ideas for teachers to access?
  • How can we communicate the idea that STEM is for everyone?

My mind was spinning. It was as if I had made my way into a parallel universe where the word “ARTS” was replaced with “STEM.” Somewhere in this world of 3D printers and bicycle clubs, there is a common thread - or possibly filament - that connects in very real and concrete ways the worlds of STEM and ARTS education in ways that aren’t so obvious, ways that might bring the parallel worlds together.

Our language is different but our end goals share important qualities: We all want our students to understand with greater depth of knowledge. We want them to experience and see the world differently. We want them to create and innovate. We want them to understand concepts in a way that allows them to transfer their learning as the world around them changes. We want them to learn how to learn and to become great citizens and leaders.

How we get there is a path filled with opportunity. Some of the many interesting ideas that are floating around can be found in Vince Bertram’s blog post in The Huffington Post, Anne Jolly’s article in Education Week, and Anna Feldman’s post on Slate. STEM proponents want to be sure that the science and math learning is authentic and rigorous; arts advocates want the same for music, visual art, theater and dance. I think the trick is finding the truly authentic connections. Rather than adding the ARTS, we should be looking for and finding the art that already exists within the STEM subjects. And art is in there within the science, within the math, within the world.

My way of looking at education changed that morning in that meeting. Our world is sloppy; art and science spill onto and into each other all the time. The natural world doesn’t make distinctions among “content areas” – it’s already integrated right before our eyes. Our job is to guide the next generation to see and understand the connections across disciplines, both STEM and ARTS, and make new ones for a new world they will create.

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