(Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) is being held out by many as the
essential priority of education in America, and in some minds, the key to
saving the global competitiveness of the U.S itself.
I do not dispute the value of STEM. I just believe it is not complete. I believe there is some valuable pieces missing that will complement the power of STEM in meeting the needs of our students and our nation in the 21st Century.
It’s time to move from STEM to STEAMD. The addition of the Arts and Design are significant improvements over the original members four members of STEM.
arts are a source of culture, a source of creativity, a source of expression, a
source of freedom, and a way to express ideas and meaning that STEM just doesn’t
provide. Art, dance, theater, music, etc. provide a valuable cultural
connection between past and current generations.
Horizons website puts it this way, “Always among the highest expression
of every culture, the arts teach us much about every historical period through
its literature, visual arts, music, dance, and drama. Today it is recognized
that to be truly well educated one must not only learn to appreciate the arts,
but must have rich opportunities to actively participate in creative work. The
arts are languages that most people speak, cutting through individual
differences in culture, educational background, and ability. They can bring
every subject to life and turn abstractions into concrete reality. Learning
through the arts often results in greater academic achievement and higher test
The D is for Design. Design and Design Thinking takes STEM and directs it into meeting human needs and centers it on people. It gives STEM meaning and purpose. Design Thinking takes STEM and uses it to solve problems, especially Wicked Problems. The wicked problem was a term coined in the 1960's by mathematician and planner RittelHorst Rittel. He described them as messy, confounding, and aggressive. In 1968, C. West Churchman detailed the issue of wicked problems in an issue of Management Science
Churchman describes wicked problems as, " a class of social system problems which are ill-formulated, where the information is confusing, where there are many clients and decision makers with conflicting values, and where the ramifications in the whole system are thoroughly confusing."
Our students are going to be asked to solve wicked problems. Wicked problems will need to have designed solutions. Our students need the skills of design and design thinking to focus STEM on meeting human needs and understanding the scope of human problems.
The power of combining Arts and Design with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math makes for a more complete and well-rounded focus for our students. Most importantly, it provides context, meaning, application, and wisdom through which STEM can be applied.
So from STEM to STEAMD…that is Education Innovation.