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The Importance of Art in STEAM Education

Woman working at machine

What is STEAM Education?

STEAM education focuses on teaching and learning in the fields of:
  • Science
  • Technology
  • Engineering
  • Arts
  • Mathematics
At its core, STEAM education aims to implement arts and design principles into the preexisting concept of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics). STEAM is applied using the proper curriculum with help from both art-focused and non-art educators. Additionally, STEAM education consists of educational activities involving all grade levels in classrooms and the public. The National Art Education Association states that STEAM education:
  • Values all STEAM disciplines equally
  • Is implemented through multiple approaches
  • Encourages creativity and innovation
  • Acknowledges the rigor found in the visual arts
The overall idea of STEAM is to teach students how to utilize creativity and inquiry to problem-solve. However, using STEAM education does not mean pushing aside science or mathematics. Instead, the inclusion of the arts aims to create creative bonds between the more cut-and-dried STEM topics. It encourages students to make connections between art, traditional STEM topics and real-world scenarios. Applying STEAM learning can be difficult, but the benefits make it worthwhile in the end.

The Benefits of STEAM Education

Incorporating STEM education into curricula is even more effective when the arts are involved (STEAM). These subjects help to move and inspire students all while provoking curiosity and excitement. Listed below are a few ways that STEAM benefits the education system.

Encourages the Creative Process

“Individuals high in creativity maintain the integrity of their neural networks even into old age,” says author Nicholas Turiano in an article on creativity for ScientificAmerican. “Creative people may see stressors more as challenges that they can work to overcome rather than as stressful obstacles they can’t overcome.” Additionally, being creative allows some to see the world differently and better cope with uncertainty. Combining aspects of STEAM into the curricula allows students and educators to explore their creativity on multiple levels. It’s important to be creative because:
  • It improves the overall quality of life and health.
  • It helps you become a better problem solver.
  • It works as a confidence builder.

Improves Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving Skills

Developing critical thinking skills through art is important because it allows a person to think clearly about what to do or believe, to understand the logical connections between ideas, and to better evaluate arguments. When students engage in critical thinking, they are questioning ideas and assumptions rather than just accepting what is being told to them. The study of the arts incorporates logical and rational thinking. Rather than taking the easy way out, artists like to challenge the norm—and the same goes for critical thinkers. Creative and critical thinking go hand in hand. Without critical thinking, someone who is creative may find it difficult to evaluate and improve on their ideas. Giving students necessary creative freedom can help them grow and develop with a critical mind. This may someday guide them to a degree in art and science, which includes criminal justice, strategic communications and more.

Provides Hands-On Learning

Hands-on learning is beneficial for child development and is a wonderful tool to use in the classroom. Art projects provide hands-on and visual learning experiences that are necessary to develop learning styles. This helps students gain a better feel for the material being taught. Critical thinking plays a role in hands-on learning as well, teaching students trial and error techniques. Students benefit from art because it teaches them to:
  • Try new things
  • Become more content with who they are
  • Become more appreciative of the work of others
  • Have higher self-esteem

Brings Students to STEM Studies

The inclusion of arts in STEM curricula helps build more interest in the rest of the STEM topics. It gets students thinking about those topics and connecting them to the arts in more engaging, interesting, creative and actionable ways. Over the past 20 years, researchers have increased their efforts to promote gender equality in STEM education—and their efforts are paying off. The National Girls Collaborative Project has found that female and male students perform equally well in science and mathematics on standardized tests. A study conducted by a team of researchers from The University of Western Australia found that participating in the arts for two hours a week can improve mental health and well-being. If this is the result of just two weeks, imagine the outcome of an entire school year. According to Carlos Arrien, a staff member at the National Endowment for the Arts, “The arts matter because they offer a unique space for self-affirmation and reflection.”