National Science Foundation Slowly Turning STEM to STEAM
Lionel Van Deerlin Professor of Communications and Public Policy, San Diego State University
Posted: Posted: 05/31/11
The STEM Initiative more and more looks like its morphing into STEAM.
Thanks to the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the tireless effort and vision of Harvey Seifter, CEO of Seifter Associates and a principal of Learning Worlds, three conference were scheduled this year — in Washington, D.C., Chicago, Illinois and San Diego, California — to look at what business, education, and communities across the U.S. were doing to merge the “two cultures” of art and science.
In the process, Harvey Seifter with support of the NSF is putting the arts into the STEM formula (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and more precisely, exploring a framework for sparking creativity and innovation in our schools, our workplaces, and in our nation.
Two of the conferences have already been held:
• April 6-7: Washington, D.C., at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
• May 16-17: Chicago, at the Illinois Institute of Technology.
The San Diego Conference scheduled June 14-15 at the California Institute of Telecommunications and Information Technology at the University of California, San Diego held in collaboration with the San Diego Science Alliance remains.
In a sense, the San Diego event is a culmination of the larger effort to forge an agenda for more in-depth research leading to action that in a matter of years will change education in America.
The data points for moving STEM to STEAM are becoming clearer, and the urgency of revisiting the current pedagogy used in pre-schools, K-12, and our universities, obvious.
The latter report was the first time that the vital link to a creative and innovative economy was made affirmatively; and the road to America’s success and survival spelled out for all to see, particularly the business community.
In their Innovation study The Conference Board asked, “Are Educators and Executives Aligned on the Creative Readiness of the U.S. Workforce?”
Only now, months and years later, The Conference Boards’ poignant question is being answered. And the answer is yes. Harvey White, co-founder of Qualcomm and Keynote speaker at the Chicago (and the upcoming San Diego) conference says this a “national emergency.” Total reform of the current educational curriculum with a marriage of the arts and sciences must happen.
In an Op/Ed in the San Diego Union-Tribune, White said, “A STEAM-based education system gives a country an advantage, or at least a level playing field, in the innovation race. We need to equip our technologists and leaders with the best training possible and add arts to STEM and put STEAM to work. It’s not that we wouldn’t still have some innovation without an arts education mandate, it is that we will be competing at a major disadvantage against STEAM-trained opponents in innovating — a critical area relative to our future economy and way of life’… ‘We need to get business, government and media to connect the dots between arts education and economic success.”
In San Diego, White will be joined by Mary Wright, Workforce Readiness Initiative Director of The Conference Board and Randy Cohen, Vice President for Policy & Research, Americans for the Arts to talk about how the Federal, state and local cities and counties across America, and the arts and sciences, education and the business community can work together to move forward.
This is the beginning of major change in America and the future of education.
Last month, President Obama’s Committee on The Arts and Humanities released a report at the Art Education Partnership (AEP) Conference, called “Reinvesting in Arts Education: Winning America’s Future Through Creative Schools.” The report, like the work of the NSF, provides evidence of the important connection between art and culture and creativity and innovation, and the urgent need for a new agenda for reinventing education in America.