As I mentioned in a recent post I am involved in the development of a STEM Academy at one of the local elementary schools. At the first meeting someone raised the idea that it should be a STEAM Academy. We kind of joked about it for a few minutes, wound up the meeting and all went home. Yesterday, one of my colleagues, Professor Jonathan Silverman, an art ed. professor extraordinaire and instrumental part of the Integrated Arts Academy elementary school in Burlington sent me a link to a site advocating for STEAM Academies.
The idea behind STEAM is the integration of creativity and the arts into what has traditionally been called STEM. As I said, when we first heard this we treated it somewhat humorously but as this video, STEM to STEAM shows this is far from a cute acronym or humorous matter. My initial concern was that if we are going to integrate the arts then why not language, reading, social studies and so on which would basically lead us back to a school with an integrated curriculum; just like the great innovative schools of the 1970s and '80s.
But, I keep thinking about this and the more I think about it the more sense it seems to make sense because what it really does is to take us out of our traditional interpretations of what math, in particular, is all about especially in the elementary school where it tends to be somewhat destroyed by the dominance of arithmetic. Combining math and art is what Vi Hart is all about. It is what the Bridges math program is hinting at; it is what I have believed for many years we should be doing in math; looking at the aesthetics of math, the pattern of number and the joys of probability and geometric shapes.
Science, engineering and technology have for many years been blessed with a strong creative/artistic component but never math. Perhaps this is the real opportunity for the salvation of math at the elementary school level.