"The main objective of both art and science is discovery. Help your students make that connection and STEAM on to academic success!" From STEM to STEAM: Using Brain-Compatible Strategies to Integrate the Arts by David A. Sousa and Tom Pilecki

The STEM Challenge

Since the mid-2000s, educators, policymakers and research organizations, including the U.S. National Academies of Sciences and Engineering, the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council, have expressed concern over the declining performance of U.S. students in the STEM fields. In response, Congress passed the America COMPETES Act of 2007, which authorized increased funding for STEM initiatives in kindergarten through graduate school. Despite this intensified focus on STEM, however, recent research and National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reports reveal only minor improvements in science scores for middle school students. Less than 1/3 of eighth-grade students performed at what the NAEP considers “proficient” levels in STEM subjects. The message is clear: For the U.S. to remain competitive educationally and economically, science and mathematics instruction must focus on creative and real-world problem-solving skills.

The Question

What types of educational programs and activities would increase student engagement, raise motivation, emphasize relevant issues, and develop creative thinking?

The Response

Integrating the arts into STEM education by turning STEM into STEAM! The problem-solving, critical-thinking, and “making” skills that are inherent in STEAM curricula are the same skills needed to develop innovative products and solutions that will drive the economy forward. Whether today’s students become artists, doctors or engineers, the challenges their generation will face require creative solutions.

What Educators Can Do

  • Understand why the A in STEAM is so important. Review how the arts promote cognitive and social development, encourage creativity and reduce stress.
  • Learn about arts integration. Consider using the arts, such as drawing, designing and building, to help students construct meaning and demonstrate their understanding of STEM subjects.
  • Foster creativity in the classroom. Encourage students to make authentic and personal connections to complex subjects through creative expression.
  • Follow the STEM to STEAM initiative: Check out www.stemtosteam.org.
  • Read David Sousa and Tom Pilecki’s book for practical ways to integrate the arts into your STEM offerings!