By Kelsey Hansen, Environmental and Education Programs Coordinator & Nicole Messervy, Education Associate
STEM – science, engineering, technology, and mathematics – was an educational movement President Barack Obama called for in 2011 to prioritize 21st-century learning skills in classrooms throughout the United States. These skills and teaching styles include collaboration, questioning, problem-solving, and critical thinking, and it would lead to better test scores and, eventually, higher-paying jobs for American students in science and engineering fields. There was a rapid expansion of science and math courses in K-12 education but teaching styles did not adjust to keeping students engaged or interested in these topics.
What is STEAM?
STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, ARTS, and mathematics. Instead of focusing just on the hard sciences, incorporating art and creativity into teaching these subjects has proven to help students retain information better and enjoy learning even more. This movement was created by John Maeda, President of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD); he suggested that “design thinking and creativity are essential ingredients for innovation.” Although many believe the purpose of STEM was to give more attention to subjects and skills underrepresented in American education, proponents of STEAM have suggested including liberal arts, fine arts, music, design-thinking, and language arts will lead to more engagement and broader career paths for students.
Why the A in STEAM is important?
Humanities teaches cognitive thinking and communication skills, improving one’s ability to process facts and establish well-informed opinions. For children with learning challenges, numerous studies have shown that the inclusion of Arts development in a multidisciplinary setting helps improve math and reading scores. Research at Mississippi State University found that the integration of arts in the classroom reduced or eliminated achievement gaps, especially for economically disadvantaged students. As a result, it led to better outcomes on standardized tests. It also provides more opportunities for problem solving and innovation.
STEAM helps maximize both left (analytical thinking) and right (imaginative thinking) brain functions, and fosters the development of student’s imagination, enhancing their abilities to innovate, collaborate, and think outside of the box. Adding the “A” for Arts is key in unlocking the greatest potential for creativity, lateral thinking, and innovation; skills that all children will benefit from in adapting to new job markets and new opportunities.
STEAM at MOAS
A lot of the programs at MOAS offered by the education staff incorporate science, engineering, and art. One of the most popular programs offered to schools is our Family Science Nights. This program allows us to visit schools throughout the county (and some outside of the county) and provide an array of hands-on science activities, as well as the portable planetarium; many of our newer stations incorporate a more creative learning style, such as our Chemistry is Colorful and Nebula Spin Art activities. The Summer Learning Institute has many classes that engage students in creativity, problem-solving, critical thinking, and design. In addition, our Family Craft Days, LEGO Days, and STEAM Days help students and families explore multifaceted topics and experience hands-on learning together. We hope you’ll come out to our Family STEAM Day on February 8th and future events to explore STEAM-related subjects and activities.
Join educators, Kelsey Hansen and Nicole Messervy, for a fun and creative Family STEAM Day at MOAS.
While inspiring curiosity, families can channel their creative sides to engage with several hands-on activities that connect art and science. Admission: Free for members or with paid museum admission.