MAJOR changes are on the way for the general American public school system.

The highly controversial “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB) law implemented by the “Dub-yah” Bush administration may very well leave schools for good as Congress is swiftly making steep changes in the United States Education system. It will be interesting to see just how much better or worse this impact will have on our schools, especially the schools with the majority of the students classified as poverty-stricken and/or a racial minority, in which NCLB was supposed to reach and protect.

One aspect to education reform that is completely positive, without the debate, is the gaining support to turn what is currently known as the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math subjects, or STEM, and introducing the letter “A” to include the mandatory study of Arts, or STEAM.

Representative Suzanne Bonamici (D- OR)

Representative Suzanne Bonamici (D- OR)

On Thursday, 11/19/2015 the House and Senate of Congress unanimously agreed on a compromise of bills to update the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, incorporating art into STEM as proposed by Representative Suzanne Bonamici, a Democrat from Oregon, effecting schools nation-wide from grades kindergarten through 12 (high school).

WHAT IS STEAM?

As STEAM picks up steam in American schools, here’s what you should know:

The goals of STEAM as brought about the Rhode Island School of Design are to transform research policy to place Art + Design at the center of STEM, encourage integration of Art + Design in K–20 education and influence employers to hire artists and designers to drive innovation.

“STEAM represents a paradigm shift from traditional education philosophy, based on standardized test scores, to a modern ideal which focuses on valuing the learning process as much as the results. In essence, we dare our students to be wrong, to try multiple ideas, listen to alternate opinions and create a knowledge base that is applicable to real life as opposed to simply an exam.”
Deron Cameron, Former UPES Principal – US’s 1st STEAM Certified School, Current TCSS Curriculum Coordinator

HOW CAN STEAM EFFECT STUDENTS?

According to STEAMedu.com, the inclusion of art into programs have shown”

*Students soon start using knowledge and skills from across the subjects to back up their work and have deeper understanding and recall of concepts when reminded of related activities.
*Students develop an ability to recognize and respect their own and others’ varying skill sets and intelligence; they learn how to best fit into teams based on roles that they have a predisposition to do well at, and learn how they and others create society.
*Students more naturally use team dynamics help solve conflicts and conversations are reported as being more on-topic.
*Students look forward to these activities and take more measures to prepare for missing work during these times. When the projects align well with the curricular concepts of that time frame, then the students have more of a direct reason to learn the content for optimal application in their project.
*Participants feel more group identity and pride with fellow students and the school, something that is often under-cultivated. They feel a shift from ME (the singular student) to WE (an active participant in the global community.)
*Classroom and SPED teachers report that students with IEPs and 504s are more engaged. Special, ESL and advanced learners get more of what they need academically and interactively from the team-based approach and need fewer specialized pull-out sessions.

WHY DOES STEAM MATTER?

What can come from the benefits of molding art and science is no surprise – art in all its various forms stimulates curiosity and innovation in addition to crafting “well-rounded” human beings. It’s all interconnected – science begets math begets language begets arts all of which influence technology.

However, it’s not enough to simply add an “A” into the acronym. It’s up to the federal and state government(s) to check on their schools and enforce the administration to adopt these programs and policies. The federal recognition by Congress to push for STEAM based teaching and learning is definitely a step in the right direction.

Besides the mere notion of not wanting to live on an eARTh without art, I for one truly believe in the psychological and mental benefits of increased support and attention to art in schools – kids need an outlet!

For more information on STEM into STEAM click visit the US Department of Education and RISD’s STEAM testimonials.