Have you noticed that many schools are promoting STEM to the exclusion, or at least minimization, of the arts? I firmly believe we must be promoting STEAM (science, technology, engineering, ART and math). And there are compelling reasons to do so despite the fact that the STEAM acronym has been slow to gain traction.
Try as we might, our society still reinforces black/white-either/or thinking. Schools and parents often feel like they need to prioritize what they should stress and what can fall by the wayside. I totally get that. It certainly makes time and funding decisions much easier. But let’s face it, in real life issues aren’t always black or white; there’s a ton of gray and so many things are interconnected.
Many people believe that while STEM involves logic and facts, art is all about imagination and creativity. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Without art at the roots, science will sit stunted and unable to flourish because the only way for science to do its magic is with applied creative problem solving, design thinking, and the ability to communicate ideas—ART!
According to LinkedIn, employers are looking for workers who have both hard technical skills and the soft skills to make them usable. The most in demand skill is creativity. We tend to think of creativity only in terms of producing works of art, when in fact, that skill translates to almost everything we do. It’s easy to imagine how creativity and design thinking contribute to engineering, designing aesthetically pleasing structures that are also structurally sound. But what about our current climate crisis? That problem is going to take some pretty creative thinking to solve. According to LinkedIn, “there is no better investment you can make today than strengthening your creative skills.”
What we need is STEAM. We must help our youth become super creative engineers who can think outside the box and design everything from eco-friendly packaging to plastic recycling systems that can save our fragile eco system. We need creative people to redesign all sorts of processes and products if we are going to survive. Stefan Mumaw, who has authored six books on creativity, defines creativity this way: “Creativity is problem-solving with relevance and novelty.”
But I’m not creative.
Creativity isn’t something you have or don’t have. Sure, some people seem to be born with creativity oozing out of their pores, but it can also be nurtured and grown. Creativity is like a muscle, and using it makes it stronger. How can parents help? Expose your kids to more interdisciplinary experiential and open-ended projects. Let them struggle a bit. Be less attached to perfect products and outcomes. Along the way, they will also develop self-confidence.
Self-confidence feeds budding creativity and tempers it with empathy. Art helps children (and adults) develop self-confidence and empathy so they look at things from different perspectives, and understand that there is more than one way to solve a problem. It also gives them the courage to speak up when they have a better way of doing something. With the complexity of our current problems and the diverse nature of our global population, this is imperative.
Art also provides a more accessible on-ramp into STEM careers for creative people who may not have explored these careers before. I envision a STEAM world where we have interdisciplinary teams, all members equally respected and contributing, to attack the world’s most pressing problems. The fastest way for us to get there is to teach our children science, technology, engineering, math AND the arts with equal enthusiasm, making intentional connections as often as possible and allowing our kids to move freely among them all.
Our Outside the Box Creation art box subscriptions help kids literally think outside the box and develop their creativity and creative problem solving skills.