The Role of Art in STEM Education

I hear and read a lot about the value of a STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) education nowadays. There’s no denying that those subjects are vastly important in the grand scheme of the 21st century.

 

But there is relatively little attention paid to the role that art can and should play in a STEM education. There are definitely movements in that direction in isolated pockets of academia and industry, but that impulse has not gained enough traction yet that the concept of STEM has turned to STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, math).

 

The Fall 2015 issue of The Seven Hills School Magazine contains an article that highlights how much art and it’s processes, both technical and creative, are an integral part of STEM. (Seven Hills is a K-12 school in Cincinnati, OH.) It’s one of the few articles I’ve read that shows this connection and how it is being applied in the curriculum at all levels of the school.

 

When you think about it, every time we teach our students how to mix paint, graph a drawing, apply emulsions, and create glazes, we are teaching them to use chemistry and math. Making 3D art requires engineering concepts and tools. Software programs and digital printers are vital tools for art creation. So how is art not a part of STEM?!

 

As Seven Hills middle-school art teacher Elissa Donovan says in the article, “Science, math, technology and engineering provide building blocks. Art is the key to imagination, the inspiration to arrange these blocks in new ways.”

 

We all should advocate for art to be a part of STEM education, and should devise our art curricula in such a way that STEM becomes STEAM.

 

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About Jane Alden Stevens

Jane Alden Stevens is a photographer and educator who is Professor Emeritus of Fine Arts at the University of Cincinnati. An active artist, Stevens has exhibited and published her work extensively both in the US and abroad. She is the author of “Tears of Stone: World War I Remembered” (2004). In the course of her teaching career, Stevens taught courses in film, photography, and professional practices for fine artists. Her interest in teaching practices was deepened when she started teaching the "Graduate Teaching Workshop", a required graduate level course for fine artists and art historians that prepares them to teach the courses they will later be assigned. She was also involved in the Preparing Future Faculty program at the University of Cincinnati, which prepares masters and doctoral students across all programs for teaching at the university level. She has conducted pedagogy workshops for a variety of universities, as well as participated in academic practicum panels at educational conferences. The recipient of numerous teaching awards, Stevens was honored with the all-university Cohen Award for Excellence in University Teaching at the University of Cincinnati in 2002 and Professor of the Year honors in her college in 2011.

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