(Deseret News) The integration of arts into STEM sounds like a no-brainer, but some not so sure

My article “The integration of arts into STEM sounds like a no-brainer, but some not so sure” appears in Deseret News. Here’s the lede:

In spring 2013, Susan Riley used Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky’s geometric paintings to teach Maryland public school students how to measure acute and obtuse angles.

Students watched dance choreography and identified the angles of dancers’ poses before dancing themselves, freezing in place, and recording their own angles on bulletin board paper. With protractors, they measured angles and colored certain parts a la Kandinsky.

“The entire lesson took just 45 minutes, but when it was over, the cooperating teacher and I noticed that one young boy, who had never spoken in class before, was bursting with excitement,” says Riley, a former public school music teacher and CEO of EducationCloset, an arts integration resource website.

The fifth-grade student told Riley that he could finally see what his teachers had been trying to explain. “Those moments are what we live for as teachers,” she says. That’s partly why she is a proponent of a movement called STEAM, which adds “arts” to the acronym STEM: science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

STEM has been a major educational focus on both a federal and state level, to say the least. On March 23, 2015, President Obama announced $240 million in new STEM funding at the 2015 White House Science Fair. According to a White House release, that was the latest in more than $1 billion in STEM funding stemming from the president’s Educate to Innovate campaign. By 2018, there will be 2.4 million job openings in STEM fields, predicts a study by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.

On the one hand, integrating arts into STEM sounds like a no-brainer. How could a multidisciplinary approach drawing together the sciences and the humanities not improve upon what either could achieve on its own? But just as STEAM has its supporters, it also has detractors, who believe its impact is greatly overstated.

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