STEM + Arts = STEAM

 

My best research usually takes place in the school holidays when the mind has time to wander. Fresh from a bit of down time with family and a ‘semi’ digital blackout (I avoided work related screen time at least!), time spend with my 11 week old nephew got me thinking. Clichéd though it may be, the now classic ‘shift happens’ videos came to mind. Fuelled by eggs benedict and a cafe latte in a very ‘on trend’ Bristol eatery, my morning online strolls found me exploring  recent interest in STEM + Arts = STEAM (STEM to STEAM & Putting the ‘A’ in STEAM).

  

The roots of this interest go back a while now, some retweet or another earlier in the year from a research thread for my ‘Choice-Based Art Curriculum’ development (which I’m long overdue a blog update on). The  curriculum is developing really well, but will probably take another year to 18 months to get right. The STEAM approach is now something  I’m keen to build into this in some way. Colleagues across various curriculum areas are enthusiastic about the concept, some outside the expected subjects. English for example are keen to explore the lessons learnt from the industrial revolution via a photoshoot, which will then spark some creative writing that can then be thrown to traditional STEM subject areas to work their magic. The idea that any ‘Arts’ subject (i.e. those that you can get a ‘Bachelor of Arts Degree’ in), could be involved in STEAM  hit me at this point and has prompted me to contemplate whole school cross curricular approaches.

Though my agenda may initially seem bias towards the Arts, ‘STEAM’ rolling (proud of that analogy!) all over other subject areas, I believe there is far more at stake here. The value of Arts and Culture to people and society (Arts Council UK 2014) highlights most of the main arguments I seek to put forward. The video ‘Why are Arts graduates under-employed’ (School of Life) fantastically exemplifies the opportunities available if we can find ways to harness them. Back to the Future day (21/10/2015) for all its fun, shows how creatives can contribute to innovation with ‘blue-sky thinking’.  Leonardo Da Vinci was also years ahead of his time with many of his concepts, like countless other innovators. Essentially we live in a results driven world, such arguments are not always so easy to put across unless there are quick successes to report (which does not always leave room for trial and error approaches). The ‘Contribution of the Arts and Culture to the national economy’ (Arts Council UK 2013) report highlights the many successes of the UK creative industries as does the UK Government’s own press release in Janurary 2015 : ‘Creative Industries now worth £88 million an hour to UK economy’

 
I’m constantly trying to seek out new ways to succinctly put these points across at all levels, most importantly in the classroom. Sadly the messages do not currently seem to be registering with the policy makers that matter, though it is good to hear that the DfE have begun to engage. Since the introduction of the EBacc in 2010 by the UK Govenment, the value of the Arts and other subjects has been slowly eroded nationally. The recent articles ‘How Art in schools is being painted into a corner’ (Time Educational Supplement) and ‘GCSE Stats: what’s the real picture for the Arts in schools’ (Cultural Learning Alliance) show that the issue is a very real threat.

Could embedding Arts, Culture and Humanities within STEM be part of the solution here? Would a cross-curricular approach provide students with deeper learning opportunities and society with greater innovation leading to more robust and sustainable economies? 

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