Curricula focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, known as STEM, have become increasingly popular. It's widely accepted by educators and policy makers that technological innovations shape our present and will continue to shape our future, so students prepared for a STEM-related career will have many career options.
But STEM-related education alone cannot yield the sort of mental agility that truly innovative, intuitive problem solvers have. For the courage to fail and creative intuition, one needs a solid education in the arts. The best and boldest thinkers, including Albert Einstein, were also accomplished artists. Adding arts, including music, dance, theater and visual arts, to STEM education results in STEAM curricula. The interdisciplinary approach has been used by schools around the country, improving test scores, and more importantly, improving mental agility.
1. Drew Charter School
Atlanta's public schools, like many urban schools, are struggling with test scores and children who may not be fully prepared to learn. But Drew Charter School, a K-8 school, has a strong STEAM curriculum with a focus on literacy. Combined with the emphasis on community building, Drew Charter School not only has seen their test scores rise, but their students become creative, determined problem solvers.
2. Taylor Elementary School
Taylor Elementary School in Arlington, Virginia added a STEAM-focused curriculum with similar results. They started with the art and music teachers to develop STEAM curriculum. In one lesson, students who might struggle with traditionally presented geometric principles might build theater scenery using the same principles. In another lesson, students created music through Apple software to represent the different stages of a plant lifecycle. Stronger test scores helped seal the deal for educators and parents, whereas the chance to create and work with their peers inspires a love of learning in students.
3. University Place Elementary School
Tuscaloosa, Alabama is experiencing an education renaissance thanks to STEAM-focused education. Affected by a 2011 tornado, the students at University Place Elementary School not only suffered interruptions in their education, but were also traumatized by the loss of homes and loved ones. A STEAM-focused curriculum helped the students heal and the school rebuild, stronger than ever.
The next technological innovations that will make our world a better place will come from minds with a strong background in mathematics and the sciences, but also minds that know how to make mistakes, think differently, and possess the courage and joy to explore. Those who create education policy will like the improved test scores, and our employers and communities will benefit from a new generation of renaissance men and women, who recognize the essential roles of both form and function, creation and analysis. A STEAM-powered education offers this and so much more.
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