The “STEM” acronym was introduced in 2001 by US scientists to group together the disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Well known in the context of education, STEM programmes promote the integration and application of knowledge of math and science in order to create technologies and solutions for real-world problems, using an engineering design approach (Jolly, 2014). These programmes are designed to develop a variety of skills that are essential for success: problem-solving, innovation, communication, collaboration and entrepreneurship, to name just a few.
More recently, a wave of art integration is spreading across the world of STEM : “If creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking – all touted as hallmark skills for 21st century success – are to be cultivated, we need to ensure that STEM subjects are drawn closer to the arts.” Piro (2010)
This push for “STEAM” (Arts + STEM) curriculums derives from the lack of creativity and innovation in recent university graduates in the US. The STEAM initiative offers more than the high-tech skills that are so valued by our society and businesses. Integration of the arts via STEAM empowers our society to foster curiosity and self-motivation, to meld technology and creative thinking, to push personal boundaries and develop individual conceptual methodologies in an innovative manner. Moreover, according to Land (2013), the Arts can enhance STEM skills due to their more divergent approach. They can provide a wider range of opportunities for communication and expression… and what is the purpose of science and engineering if they cannot be transferred, shared and applied?
The integration of the arts in the STEM fields is a recent development in education. According to Ohme, they have been on two sides of the same coin since time immemorial. Science and the arts may be perceived as being very different – even at opposite ends of the spectrum – but the processes used by both fields are very similar. The well-known British mathematician, science historian, dramatist, poet and inventor Jacob Bronowski had already stated in the early second half of the 20th century (1956): “There is a likeness between the creative acts of the mind in art and in science.“
Indeed, the scientific method is a way to explore a problem, form and test a hypothesis, and answer questions. The creative process creates, interprets and expresses Art. In both cases, enquiry lies at the heart of either method (Nichols & Stephens, 2013). In both cases, the “researchers” attempt to bring meaning to their world’s experiences and observations (Honvault, 2010). Moreover, the ability for simultaneous deconstruction of a complex problem using convergent thinking and application of the corresponding solution to the real world using divergent thinking (Land, 2013) involves processes required in both fields of Art and Science. Starting from the following question “What makes some scientists more creative than others?” Root-Bernstein et al. (2008) demonstrated that almost all scientific geniuses between 1902 and 2005 had been proficient not just in science but also in the arts.
- Bronowski, J. (1956). Science and human values. Higher Education Quarterly, 11(1), 26–42.
- Honvault, J. (2010). Le pont d’un ingénieur entre l’art et la science. http://jacqueshonvault.com/pdf/conf-pont.pdf.
- Jolly, A. (2014). STEM vs. STEAM: Do the arts belong. Education Week, 18.
- Kuhn, T. S. (1962). The structure of scientific revolutions. University of Chicago press.
- Land, M. H. (2013). Full STEAM ahead: The benefits of integrating the arts into STEM. Procedia Computer Science, 20, 547–552.
- Nichols, A. J., & Stephens, A. H. (2013). The Scientific Method and the Creative Process: Implications for the K-6 Classroom. Journal for Learning through the Arts, 9(1).
- Piro, J. (2010). Going from STEM to STEAM. Education Week, 29(24), 28–29.
- Popper, K. (1959). The logic of scientific discovery. Routledge.
- Root-Bernstein, R., Allen, L., Beach, L. et al. (2008). Arts foster scientific success: Avocations of Nobel, National Academy, Royal Society and Sigma Xi Members. Journal of Psychology of Science and Technology, 1(2), 51–63.