The debate over education reform is ongoing. Everyone has a stake in the game, and after all, it is about our children, our future, and that affects everyone. Each one of us has had an education, and as a result, believes THEY KNOW. The wide variety of outcomes allows for assorted opinions on what is best, but each vision exhibits passion and their version of best practices.
Recent years show incredible push and publicity for STEM education to solve our country's problems. STEM is everywhere. We need workforce development! And, we do. Rescue our falling behind students and create students who are competitive on the global stage. Improve skills in mathematics, science and engineering while understanding the development of new technologies (STEM). There may not be future jobs to fit current skill levels for the much of the population, but there are a lot of jobs, and well-paying ones, for the STEM skilled workforce. There are more jobs than people qualified to fill them. STEM education will fill the void. (Mind you, there are those who don't agree with this saying we are producing enough STEM workers, yet most of the data points to the former).
My belief in STEM education reads more as passion than protocol. This inquiry based way to learn can cover so much of what students need to know and be able to do, and at the same time, offer them skills in being in charge of their own learning while discovering how and why to learn rather than what to learn. No more memorizing in this age of instant information. It is time to use and apply that knowledge and solve problems. On a variety of levels, this type of learning and facility with both math and science creates students who can "engineer" through trial and error to solve real world problems. Every day problems. This type of education is ideal. It creates life long learners and resourceful, resilient citizens.
So to the point. . . We know more or less what STEM is, although some may define it differently, for the most part we agree that it is integrated learning combining the disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The argument often comes from what else does it include? You can't do those things without reading or an understanding of history and our progress as a society. And yes, embrace the BIG one: THE ARTS!
Along with pressure to build a future-thinking workforce, there is also a need to inspire creativity and innovation. So, how do you teach someone to be creative?
Many think you can't, but you can. It becomes a way of looking at the world and a process of approaching work. That process or point of view can be illustrated, imitated, learned, and most of all discovered. Inspire new ways of looking at things - innovation - it roots itself in inquiry-based learning.
I keep beating the arts drum finding the many possible ways to include the arts and viable and imperative reasons to do so. I have been interviewed and quoted quite a bit. And yet, as much as I believe in this as a way to educate the whole child, all children, and their representative learning styles, I still wonder why and how we do this in a way that makes sense. In fact, education must be holistic and inclusive but still engage and enhance the STEM part of the whole thing. I do think that is essential. Along with that is the need to make empathetic, thinking human beings, and the arts are key to this end.
Arts experiences can cover a variety of learning possibilities: some that are directly related to STEM and some that are not. The arts help to develop cognitive skills in a way that nothing else does. The arts encourage students to take risks and give them confidence to try things that may not always go as hoped. The arts are collaborative and engaging and can serve as a way for students to use their strengths to learn and to demonstrate their knowledge. The arts add the opportunity for students to experience creative expression, play, and exploration. The value of the experience may be hard to measure, but students who are involved connect and grow.
You can’t tell someone to be creative and expect them to just do it. Experiencing creativity is powerful, and it expands with each additional opportunity. It is a risk to allow students to take a risk, but the benefits are mighty.
I write this endorsement from my heart and also from extensive research that supports these ideas. The arts can benefit, not only the way a student learns, but also the kind of 21st century citizen we need.
So ask me questions or shoot down my ideas. Be offended that I penetrate science and mathematics with drums and dance. Do we really have anything to lose? Or would you rather create robotic children who are ideal at filling in test bubbles, but have never experienced the joy of creating something new and explicitly personal?