STEM to STEAM: new ways to problem solve

Weeks ago the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) hosted a provocative workshop called “Bridging STEM to STEAM: Developing New Frameworks for Art-Science-Design Pedagogy“.

“…The goal of this gathering of minds was to develop strategies to enhance STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math] education by integrating art and design – transforming STEM into STEAM and promoting the intellectual and creative potentials in the process.

“The workshop brought together 60 leaders from the fields of science, creative IT, engineering, art and design, mathematics and education research to strategize about innovative ways to fuse these fields and teach new approaches to creative problem solving.”

I like this.

It means breaking through an “artificial bifurcation between art and science” that I’ve felt for some time. On a college campus, the buildings where science and art are taught can reside in different zip codes. Disparate whole subcultures of professors and students go in and out. There’s economy in this and I get it. But some learning approaches in the sciences haven’t ever much changed. We’re creating some great scientists on the one hand, but on the other we have a shortage, and many new students aren’t raring to go because they disidentify with a zip code.

Disciplines are siloed off behind inert traditions. Yet academies themselves know silos are false. Many in the end spend energy stitching much of it back together through Dual Degree Engineering and cross disciplinary joint degree programs.

Folks in science can be ashamed to be closeted poets or guitarists–like it means lack of focus. Venus and Serena Williams—who appear continuously in school or learning a foreign language or designing a clothing line—are high profilers who have publicly nurtured creativity while “scientifically” mastering a conformist, precision oriented day job. It was their rejection of convention—in training, strategy, and scheduling—that correlated with their original success and worked as a template for others. They have weathered the lack of focus critique; but as career “delineations” that for them were congruent, creativity arguably enhanced their game.

A workshop participant remarked how the world comes to us whole and we dysfunctionally break it down into artificial pieces expecting to understand it.

I’m glad for this group of envelope pushers.


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