Dr. Gilmore's Blog

Images of the A in STEAM

Never Underestimate the Importance of the “A” in STEAM

  • In 2013, tech giant Google took a look at the algorithms they had used when hiring people and discovered that for Google’s top employees STEM expertise (science, technology, engineering, math) was “dead last.” Instead, the top seven characteristics of success were: “being a good coach; communicating and listening well; possessing insights into others (including others’ different values and points of view); having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues; being a good critical thinker and problem solver; and being able to make connections across complex ideas.” They recently completed another internal study, dubbed Project Aristotle, analyzing their teams and found that the best teams also relied on soft skills: equality, generosity, curiosity toward the ideas of your teammates, empathy, and emotional intelligence. At the top of the list was emotional safety — ensuring that every member of the team felt respected and confident so they weren’t afraid to speak up or make mistakes. What they discovered was that STEM skills, while very valuable, weren’t enough on their own — in order to succeed, people need to excel in the soft skills that help them adapt, think on their feet, empathize and innovate.

    Are you surprised? I’m not. And if you asked our teachers, you’d probably discover they wouldn’t be surprised by these findings either.

    About a decade ago, we launched a district-wide STEM initiative that focused on providing students with an integrated curricula, equitable access to technology and talent development, and hands-on learning opportunities that prepared them for life, a career and post-secondary educational opportunities. Our goal was to ensure that our students developed 21st century skills critical to their success — collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creativity (the four Cs) — that would help them develop into lifelong learners with a broad skill set who could adapt and persevere in a rapidly changing job market. 

    But it soon became clear that something was missing. If we were promoting a culture in which science was given greater consideration than art, we were doing a disservice to our students. Thus, our STEM became STEAM (the A stands for Art/Design).

    Turns out, we’re not alone. Today, innovative educators across the globe have discovered the limitless potential of creating a culture in which science, technology, engineering, art/design and math are equally valued. And today, more than ever, employers are evaluating job candidates based on their curiosity, resilience and adaptability — looking for individuals with a broad skill set, who work well with others and can creatively solve problems. According to a recent article in Financial Review, employers are increasingly choosing candidates with a core degree supplemented by non-core classes in the arts.

    You might be thinking to yourself — how could an engineer/scientist/doctor/computer programmer benefit from performing in a play, taking an art class or reading classical literature?

    Today’s engineers/scientists/doctors/programmers don’t work endless hours in a laboratory alone. Thanks to digital technologies our innovators share ideas with one another around the world with a simple click of the mouse and work with highly diverse teams in open workspaces. An innovator must be able to share her ideas with others and help them visualize what her work is and why it matters — whether it’s to secure research funding or collaborate with subject matter experts across the globe. She must be open to new ideas and different perspectives so that she can improve upon and expand her ideas. She can’t be afraid to ask questions, indulge her curiosity or risk failure. She needs to be able to visualize solutions and then craft designs that are as functional as they are aesthetically pleasing and ethical. To succeed, she needs to demonstrate the value of her solution — making the science accessible, inclusive and easy for others to relate to. All of those skills are fueled by the arts. As Steve Jobs famously noted, “The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.”

    By providing students with expansive opportunities to pursue the arts — drawing, design, music, theater, pottery, writing, literature, painting, speech — we are helping them develop skills that are critical to success in the 21st century. Research indicates that the arts:

    • Help students embrace their natural curiosity, ask questions and innovate
    • Empower students to take risks and learn from their mistakes
    • Challenge them to consider a variety of perspectives and develop the ability to empathize with others
    • Provide them with the opportunity to discover the power of collaboration
    • Teach them critical communication skills
    • Help them question and appreciate form and function

Instructor Guest Bloggers

  • We asked a number of instructors to share their thoughts on the importance of art/design and share examples of projects that integrate all aspects of STEAM. We’d like to thank these subject matter experts for giving each of us a behind-the-scenes look at these projects and the thought and effort behind them.

Out and About - Guest Bloggers

  • Jeanne Archiquette — Art Instructor

    Posted by Admin on 11/26/2018

    illustration of hand

    “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”― Albert Einstein

    This quote from Albert Einstein is the epitome of the importance and involvement of the Arts in STEAM. While industries and corporations are looking for STEM skills in the work place, many are now investigating and valuing the importance and addition of the Arts to enhance their innovation strategies. 

    In our art classes, we are constantly encouraging our students to think in innovative ways, to go beyond what is presented to them in a given project, to solve problems using their developmental skills and critical thinking. We challenge our students to develop creative and independent thoughts and their own expression to complete the final product, whether it be in the visual arts, music, drama, or dance. We cultivate their background knowledge and encourage them to continuously put theory into practice.

    A recent example of this was a simple drawing assignment for my 7thgrade art. It began with lessons on technical skills — using lines and shading values to create a three-dimensional image of a hand. Once that was complete the students were given options, and here is where the innovation began. I challenged them to think about what really goes into the use of our hands. How do we use them in our daily lives? What if that were changed or altered?

    We researched how the medical field had to do some problem solving and critical thinking to help veterans, cancer survivors and accident victims adjust to the loss of a hand and use a prosthesis. We asked: what goes into the research and development of a prosthesis? In doing so, we opened their eyes to the possibilities of engineering design as an art career and they could see first hand how Art fits into STEAM.

    We examined more connections between the visual arts in industry and engineering by watching videos from the Veteran’s Administration on prostheses engineering. They studied how their own hand moved and how to create movement in the wrists or knuckles by viewing videos where the human hand was mechanically altered to illustrate movement. All of these lessons were incorporated into variations of their hand sketches using critical thinking skills and creative innovation.

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These student-created models of skin are as creative as they are instructive. By incorporating design into this project, stud
  • These student-created models of skin are as creative as they are instructive. By incorporating design into this project, students were challenged to visualize what they had learned and create a construct.

In this example, art, design, creativity and communication are combined.  Students created narrative drawings using a random
  • In this example, art, design, creativity and communication are combined.  Students created narrative drawings using a random object selected by the teacher and then adding other objects to create a composition that tells a story. At the end of the project, they developed a written story based on their drawing.