From the Editor's Desk
Several years ago, I was instrumental in the development of my school’s now-annual STEM Day, a career day that focuses on expanding student interest and knowledge in STEM careers. Following a successful inaugural STEM Day, the next year some of the committee members asked to expand our STEM Day into one that included the arts. This request was also echoed in many student evaluations that requested career sessions related to drama, music, and art. This request underscored the necessity of planning an event that would be relevant for all students, not just for those who demonstrated an affinity for the STEM subjects. If we are to attract individuals who desire to work in the STEM fields, then we need to expand our thinking regarding the arts versus the sciences; neither should exclude the other. Rather, we should concentrate our energy toward sparking student imagination and interest in STEM through hands-on projects that require critical thinking, collaboration, and communication skills.
Challenging our students to think creatively by applying design skills to solve problems may be one of the best ways to cultivate an interest in a STEM-related career. This approach allows those students who may not be scientifically inclined to find a connection between their interests and STEM-based projects. Such projects, which are often interdisciplinary in nature, can also add relevance to the curriculum by demonstrating the interrelationships between topics. Even more important, incorporation of the arts may be particularly impactful for underrepresented students as it may increase student achievement (Catchen 2013).
Because of the pivotal importance that the arts play in the lives of many students, and the connections that the arts have for STEM careers, my school’s annual career day has morphed from STEM to STEAM. With it, we’ve expanded the variety of presentations and have captured the imaginations of more of our students. The result? A day full of innovation and one that addresses the interests of all.
Catchen, R. 2013. Reflections: How STEM becomes STEAM. The STEAM Journal 1 (1). Available at http://scholarship.claremont.edu/steam/vol1/iss1/22
Patty McGinnis is a teacher at Arcola Intermediate School in Eagleville, Pennsylvania. You can contact her at email@example.com or on Twitter: @patty_mcginnis.