When STEM Becomes STEAM, We Can Change The Game

November 7, 2019

Tomorrow is National STEM/STEAM Day, a day where we focus on inspiring kids to pursue science, technology, engineering, math … and art? As the head of an organization that focuses on preparing 100,000 new STEM teachers for our nation’s classrooms, I get asked all the time what I think about STEAM. People assume I’m opposed, but the opposite is true. While the country doesn’t have a need for more arts teachers, per se, we all need more STEM teachers to teach STEM in STEAMy ways. 21st-century jobs require creative confidence, critical thinking, and collaboration. Children need 21st-century learning opportunities that are no different. When the arts are part of STEM, STEM can come to life and spark connections for many more students to engage creatively, critically, and confidently in their learning.

As Jan Cohen, the Founder of UrbanMath Trails, recently told me: “Not enough connections are being made between art and math.”

We need all kids to have the STEM skills and agency to become the problem solvers our world needs them to be. Our role as educators is to open as many doors as possible for students to get excited about learning and, specifically, STEM. Yet implicit bias and other structural impediments mean that we open fewer doors to girls, students of color and kids from low-income and rural communities. When they don’t engage deeply in STEM, we all lose. But the arts have always been a haven for the otherwise marginalized, and arts education connected to STEM can open many possible doors.

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