Running full steam ahead… Running full steam ahead… Running full steam.

I have always been a big supporter of the A in STEAM.  I think focusing on the science, technology, engineering, and math elements without the art does a disservice to students everywhere, and does not set us up for a future of creative thinkers. “In fact, business leaders say they are looking for creative, independent thinkers in every field, not just math and science” (Martinez & Stager, 2013, p. 44).  By including the A for Art in STEAM, we are encouraging not just art, but creativity.

Art is everywhere.  I see art in math, I see art in technology, in engineering, even in science.  Maybe not in the traditional sense of the word, but it is certainly there.  Not everyone learns the same, and not including an artistic way to consider these concepts means excluding a group of learners.  When I was at New York University, we had a required math element in our core curriculum called Quantitative Reasoning.  QR could easily be satisfied by taking classes such as calculus or statistics, but NYU also recognized that not everyone is meant for these types of math classes.  One of the classes it offered as an alternative for QR was Patterns in Nature.  Yes, this class took a lot of heat for being a cop-out, or for being an easy A, but I think it definitely holds merit.  It is important to remember that patterns are still mathematical, even though they can seem artistic more than anything else.  My point here is that art and math (or any of the STEM parts) can easily go hand in hand, and one should not be left out just because it doesn’t seem science-y enough or doesn’t seem to be as closely aligned to the other fields.

Otters holding hands

Now I want to talk about art and technology.  We use technology every day to create art.  Take, for example, the Skokie Public Library’s Digital Media Lab (DML).  In the article we read, we learned about the different things people were creating through their use of technology that certainly fall into the art category.  If you watch the videos at the end, you can see some prime examples of art: one of the videos is even called “Food and Wine Art video demo,” where a patron demonstrates how she created a poster for an upcoming church event (Jacobsen & Anthony, 2011).  Is this art or is this technology? Honestly, I think it is both.  What about music?  Isn’t that considered art?  But wait… We wouldn’t be able to create mixes without technology.  The entire electronica and techno genres, without technology, would not really be able to exist.  According to Jacobsen and Anthony (2011), “GarageBand, with separately purchased Jam Packs… is very popular with patron musicians.”  This just goes to show that those ‘musical artsy types’ are using technology to create their art. Hmm.

Let’s look at this from the flip side.  Is there science in art? Certainly.  Today, I was painting at work in order to create some props for our mini golf course for an upcoming program.  I had red, and I had blue, but I did not have purple.  I wanted purple.  So I decided to mix the paints and make a new color.  While I did not chemically change the paint, I did physically change it, which is still a scientific process.  So today, even though I considered myself to be doing art, I also threw in some science just for the fun of it and completely by accident.  Of course there is also math in art – lines, angles, shapes, it’s all math! And art!

PLL gasp

gremlin gasp

I could go on about the art in science and the art in engineering, or vice versa, but I think my examples have made my point for me.  Without art, science/technology/engineering/math aren’t always possible, and without science/technology/engineering/math, art isn’t always possible.  To further my point, Martinez and Stager (2013) mention:

“While school traditionally separates art and science, theory, and practice, such divisions are artificial.  The real world just doesn’t work that way! Architects are artists.  Craftsmen deal in aesthetics, tradition, and mathematical precision.  Video game designers rely on computer science. Engineering and industrial design are inseparable.  The finest scientists are often accomplished musicians” (p. 2).

So as you can see, the lines between art and science have blurred. Even if you think you are just doing one, chances are you’re doing a combination of multiple letters within the acronym.  So I say, full STEAM ahead!

References

Jacobsen, M. & Anthony, C.  (2011 November 8).  Build your own digital media lab.  The Digital Shift.  Retrieved from http://www.thedigitalshift.com/2011/11/media/build-your-own-digital-media-lab/

Martinez, S.L. & Stager, G.  (2013).  Invent to learn: Making, tinkering, and engineering in the classroom.  Torrance, CA: Constructing Modern Knowledge Press.

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