The last decade there is a lot of discussion in EU about the importance of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) in education. Schools, member states, and businesses in Europe and beyond are hoping that today’s STEM students can solve tomorrow’s global issues. A major investment has been made from European and national funds to find ways to increase students’ interest in scientific careers. The high-quality science education is one of the main pillars of the Responsible Research and Innovation framework that HORIZON 2020 programme aims to promote and facilitate. But there’s more to education than following a STEM career. A lot more.
That’s why a new term is gaining *ahem* steam.
It’s called STEAM and it’s the idea of incorporating arts into a STEM-based curriculum. In other words, let’s help students think more creatively and better understand the problems they’re already working to solve. Training in the arts has been shown to improve creativity and innovation as well as students’ Deeper Learning. Students learn to approach issues with a critical mind and a positive attitude towards problem solving. Exposure to the arts enhances communication skills, which are essential tools for collaboration. It develops flexibility and adaptability. In such an approach the artificial barriers developed over years among subject areas could be eliminated and students will be given a broader context for solving real life problems, which demands the development of analytical, interpretive and evaluative skills used in many subject matter areas.
This kind of learning is definitely of greater value to students and is increasingly considered as a high stake global educational priority. This is based on the understanding that such competences are critical to be developed in order to build students’ readiness to meet the requirements of modern society and industry.
On the other hand, teachers are faced with a real challenge. Having specialized in an academic discipline may cause frustration to them when it comes to creating interdisciplinary, cross curricular activities. Additionally, today’s global challenges request high level scientific knowledge. Such activities demand considerable knowledge in many areas, which they may lack.
STEAM education is about engaging students in a multi- and interdisciplinary learning context that values the artistic activities, while breaking down barriers that have traditionally existed between different classes and subjects.
This trend reflects a shift in how school disciplines are being viewed. While this new movement is being discussed almost explicitly in an education context, its roots are embedded across nearly every industry. In fact even this movement is not new: Science-inspired art goes back to Leonardo and Dürer, when there was no “art” and no “science” as such. As science developed, the two moved further and further apart. But then in the 20th century, developments in relativity theory, quantum physics, electronics and bio-technology brought a renewed interplay between art, science and technology. In many ways, technology is the connective tissue. A curriculum can be defined narrowly as the content of a particular class or degree.
It can also be defined more broadly as the combined total experiences of a person’s lifelong learning. An innovative approach to curriculum design would involve experts from various fields. They would collaborate to design a curricula space where students actively connect and extend the diverse aspects of their education. After all, while few would doubt the value of disciplined thinking, isn’t our goal also to prepare students for lifelong learning in an undisciplined world?
ESIA projects and activities aim to develop a framework for integrating the arts into STEM activities, simulating the ways in which subjects naturally connect in the real world.