Stop talking about “STEM” education! “TEAMS” is way cooler!
Posted by Bert Maes on October 21, 2010
The term STEM education (for science, technology, engineering and mathematics) was coined by Dr. Judith Ramaley when she was assistant director at the National Science Foundation from 2001 to 2004. Ramaley’s concept of STEM situates learning in the context of solving real world problems or creating new opportunities—pursuit of innovation. Spurred by a public and private sector push for global competitiveness, STEM has become a lightning rod for education in 2010.
But it is pretty clear that many kids don’t get inspired by what happens with STEM in schools. How many times did you already hear lamentations like: “I am terrified of math. To me, it is just a bunch of gibberish. The very idea of math makes me want to run away and crawl under a rock. Reading textbooks without inspiring explanation does not work for me.” Many schools have succeeded in making science boring.
So a new grassroots movement is born to add another dimension to STEM education. They lobby at schools to implement TEAMS, in which the ‘A’ stands for ARTS. TEAMS programs thus incorporate arts into science learning.
The thinking is simple: STEM and arts are two sides of the same coin. STEM represents the knowledge, tools and processes to invent the future, however, the arts are what make us human. They are inseparable.
After all ‘a well rounded student’ of the 21st century is above all CREATIVE, is able to put knowledge into action to solve real world problems and has the skills to construct, simulate and design new worlds of possibility.
In manufacturing education we need teachers who dare to ask “What kind of world do you want to live in today and can you imagine and design it?” In this the creative dimension and especially the FUN aspect is critical. Arts can be the transformational catalyst for innovation in technical education and economic development.
I see a CNC manufacturing specialist as both engineer and artist:
- Both should have the curiosity, creativity, imagination and attention to detail.
- Both observe, see patterns and construct meaning.
- Both go from crude designs to finished products.
Think Steve Jobs meets Michaelangelo. Think refined sculpture, highly detailed, highly thought-out pieces of fine art…created by man and machine. Artist Gene Felice commented, “CNC mills use robotic drill cutters to cut an object out of blocks of solid material like wood, metal or plastic. Artists like myself, are using it to develop new ideas and sculptural forms.”
Without arts STEM is not creative.
Creativity makes a huge impact on students thinking and ideas, according to Dawn Renee Wilcox:
- Students better remember science learning situations that contain multi-sensory, hands-on activities or experiments, which the arts can bring to STEM lessons.
- The arts are useful for helping students make transitions and connections between STEM content real world events and challenges.
- An artistic representation of ideas and solutions is a valuable way to make learning personal.
- Arts can inspire students, to see things and to learn things in a different way.
An example (more than 30 others resources can be reviewed at oercommons.org):
A teacher asked his students to design a working model for an affordable and renewable way to grow food. The result – a vertical hydroponic garden attached to a fishpond, along with a sculpture – is beautiful and functional, incorporating green design and technology. The students created drawings and wrote about their designs and shared their ideas via videos, slideshows, sketches, commercials complete with advertising drama and student-created jingles and other artistic channels.
Changing STEM classes into TEAMS could allow students not only to see how science is important to aspects of everyday life, but it also allows them the opportunity for real-world application of science and math knowledge. Arts would represent an essential part of the process of inquiry: problem finding, problem solving, and communication.
Let’s start with TEAMS work, don’t you think?