STEM vs STEAM

My son is a STEM student.  In short, he’s working on an Associate degree in pre-engineering.  Then he’s going to go on for the four-year degree.  STEM has always made a lot of sense to us.  For those of you who may not be certain what the acronym means, it is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.

The purpose is to encourage STEM learning in our students so that they, and we, can compete in a world that relies increasingly on science and tech.  STEM, and my love of science, are why I write STEM books like Hidden Human Computers, The Zika Virus, and The Dakota Access Pipeline. 

And then along came STEAM.  STEAM adds Arts to the STEM emphasis.  As much as I love art, until recently I had a serious STEM bias.  I didn’t get why they had added art.  I could repeat the reasons (it too is important and deserves funding) but really?  I wasn’t sure it belonged.

Then I talked to a friend whose daughter is a top-notch artist.  She was turned down for the STEAM line at the high school because her science and math weren’t good enough.  But what about the science and math focused students?  Did they get turned down if they lagged behind in art?  I seriously wanted to know because my kid is not an artist.

Nope.  They didn’t care if a kid who loved chemistry was a talented potter or painter.  It only mattered the other direction.

Seriously?  If it is going to be there, it should have the same emphasis.

Then I encountered a STEAM series of books.  Yay!  My young friend would love these!  Except, again, the art was tacked on and only loosely attached.

And now that I’m a true convert, this annoys me.  Geometry is a part of drawing and painting.  Chemistry is involved in glass work and painting.  Galileo and Da Vinci were both artists and scientists.  When and why did we separate them so completely?

Not surprisingly, I’ve checked out every STEAM book from the library.  If one of them isn’t amazing, I may have to get to work.

–SueBE

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