The idea of the STEM is not new. The term was introduced in the educational context as a process of integration of different academic areas proposing an innovative approach to the study of sciences through a multidisciplinary approach. Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics give way to the acronym of STEM. It is used to identify the four disciplines that, together, try to establish themselves as a unique tool to provide knowledge and value (to society). The goal is simple: from theory to action.
But … What about the Arts? Sciences and Arts have been traditionally perceived as eternal enemies, two kingdoms fighting in a never-ending war. Still, is it really so deep the gap that divides these two great areas of knowledge? It is possible that, after all, there may be bridges that bring them together. In fact, there may be new evidence of the relevance of the “A”, since without the inclusion of the Arts no multidisciplinary project will be fully complete.
What´s STEAM, the importance of the A
All throughout history there have been many examples of scholars who worked integrating the different disciplines and consider all of them equally important. They provided scientific value to their artistic creation while at the same time recognized the humanistic influences in their work. The fact is that we can still find many ancient engineering works, that are no longer in use but that still have a high artistic value.
Even today, and despite both fields seem to be confronted, it is difficult to think of Engineering or Scientific Projects that lack an attractive design or an aesthetic value. Thus, it is not only relevant but also necessary to include the Arts as an intricate part of an integrated and interdisciplinary project. Understanding education as a way to learn, to grow and to progress over time will not be complete without the presence and contribution of the humanities.
Engineering and Science are now top areas of development and it is because of them that we move forward; in order to do that, we need of the advancements of Technology and Math but also of the Arts; of imagination, intuition and creativity. These skills are the basis that provide the foundation for the development of any great project.
The inclusion of Arts and humanities: from theory to action
Traditionally the study of each disciplines was self-centered and closed, scholars build few or no connections between the different areas (only when strictly necessary) and often disregarded any contribution that came from a different field. The goal of STEM in Education was to develop a joined and interdisciplinary project creating areas of collaboration between the different disciplines that will foster their mutual growth. The goal of this project is to go from theory to practice.
With the integration of the A of STEAM new challenges: to get that the acronym STEAM to move from theory to practice when it comes to integrate the five disciplines. We should point out that there are already set guidelines that provide the Arts with its place.
In order to get there, one of the most important steps will be the development and implementation of new universal teaching processes that will be applicable to all disciplines at the same level. In addition to this, we should foster a interdisciplinary approach to learning that will emphasize the integration of all reinforcing their mutual interconnections.
One can argue that Creativity, Intuition and Imagination have always been a part in the Educational curricula but until now, they have traditionally been neglected as secondary skills. Nowadays, with the revolutionary approach of STEAM these very same skills are considered to be the backbone for development, creativity and innovation. They represent the basic essence of an idea, from its inception to the development of the final product.
Today it is important to highlight specific examples of how to integrate the Arts as one of the key disciplines in STEM. For this purpose we should provide with concrete examples of historical figures, scholars and scientists that have integrated all the STEAM disciplines in their work.
We live in a time of change where traditional education does not comply with the needs and requirements of our society today. Our education system is caught in the middle of a revolutionary process that will bring new ways of learning (and teaching). Innovation, flexibility, constant change and practical learning are now the basis of the future of Education. This new model Education cannot be complete if only considering the classic disciplines of STEM, it is with the inclusion and value of the A that we can understand the full meaning of STEAM.