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The Best Innovators Need STEM Skills, and More

art-classHere at Dream It Do It Nebraska, we’ve shown you the importance of pursuing education and training in science, technology, engineering and math fields, or STEM.

It’s critical to the future growth of our economy that new leaders in these fields take the reigns in manufacturing, engineering and even 3D printing. But according to the Washington Post and US News, students may need more than just STEM skills if we want the greatest innovators.

At a STEM roundtable on Capitol Hill last week, a panel of academics, corporate leaders and a California state senator called on schools to integrate different topics alongside the traditional STEM education, like the Arts. “We can’t have people just in the sciences and not engage in out-of-the-box thinking,” California State Sen. Marty Block says. Being an innovator in the industry requires a creative mindset as well as the skills to make things happen.

“Making things faster, cheaper, better, bolder is what STEM does for many industries,” says John Maeda, a graduate from MIT and former president of the Rhode Island School of Design. But just having STEM skills leaves students with a big blind spot. “The STEM ‘bundle’ is suitable for building a Vulcan civilization, but misses wonderful irrationalities inherent to living life as a human being and in relation to other human beings.”

STEM education is exceptional at making us more efficient or increasing speed of production, but it’s not so good at growing our curiosity or imagination. Its focus is poor at sparking our creativity. “You have to make this choice, like its black and white,” says Lorie Zapf, a San Diego city councilwoman who attended the forum in D.C.

But instead of teaching one skill set at the exclusion of the other, why not combine the two and teach a mega curriculum that focuses on STEM and the Arts: it’s called STEAM education.

The Arts are a brain booster, and a major spark behind creativity; combined with the skills learned from science and math courses, students will not only have the skills to change the world, but will also have the ingenuity to see where change is needed, and then see that change through to the end.

It will also keep students inspired and involved in their programs. Even if students test well in science and math courses (and these are certainly beneficial skills to have), they generally become too removed from any real world application.

Kids also get bored very easily. Studies have shown that students involved in quality music programs alone have higher participation with lower drop out rateshigher scores on standardized testing, 22% better English scores, 20% better in math, and have demonstrated better problem solving skills.

Focusing on STEM as a tool to fill high-tech jobs and grow innovation is not enough. The arts are more than just a fun activity that keeps students happy and occupied at school. By switching from STEM education to STEAM education, students will not only have the skills to innovate, but will have the imagination and creativity to change the world. They’ll remember why we change the world in the first place: for the people around us.

photo credit: Ames247 via photopin cc

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