STEM to STEAM: The Benefits of Connecting Head and He(ART)!

Art classes are often seen as an elective or optional subject. Something that you only do if you have the time, passion, or talent for it. On the other hand, every student is required to take some type of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) class at various points in their education career, regardless of their skill level or interest. For a long time, art was seen as disconnected and completely unrelated to the more technical disciplines, such as math and science. However, a new trend in education is emerging. People are beginning to understand the important role that art plays in STEM fields, so much so, that the acronym STEM is falling out of favor and being replaced with STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics). So what role does art play in these STEM fields and why should we encourage students to value both?

A watercolor painting Alexandra did last year.
A watercolor painting of a sailboat Alexandra did last year.

STEM fields are filled with problems that need to be solved, and you can’t solve them without creativity. Everyday, the world develops more and more problems that require creative solutions, and future generations won’t know how to be creative to solve these problems if they don’t have the opportunity to explore their creativity. If someone’s not good at art, we often just shrug it off, saying art just isn’t for them, but if someone is struggling in math, extra time is often dedicated to the student to help them understand this essential subject. I wonder what kind of world we would live in if someone that was struggling with art was given the amount of extra attention they would get if they were struggling with math. What if we held art in the same high regard that we hold the sciences? While we don’t necessarily need a world full of artists, we do need a world full of people that value artistic expression, just as much as STEM fields.


An acrylic painting of a red panda.
A painting of a red panda Alexandra did when she was interning at a zoo.

Art also plays an important role in learning about nature. A photograph can capture nature perfectly, but when you sit out there and draw or paint a landscape or a bird, you begin to notice a lot of little details that you want to include in your art that you wouldn’t notice otherwise. When you spend time creating in nature, it allows you to truly see everything around you, from the intricate details of the flowers, to every subtle color found on the birds' wings, and the entirety of the landscape. An artist wants all the wonder of nature to fit onto their canvas, so they take the time to draw all these details to the viewer's eyes. If we all began to think like such an artist, it would helps us learn new things that we would otherwise miss.


A hand knit magenta scarf.
A scarf Alexandra knit for her mom.

Part of the problem is, people often feel like to enjoy art, they have to be good at it, but that’s not the case. Art is a form of self expression, and I promise you, you don’t have to be good at it to enjoy it. Do only talented singers and musicians enjoy music? Of course not! There are also so many different types of art besides drawing and painting. There’s pottery, fiber arts, music, and so much more! There is guaranteed to be an art form you will enjoy, regardless of how good you are at it.

So this year, I challenge you to complete one art project. Whether you’re drawing, painting, knitting, or learning a new song. My goal is to complete a cross stitch project for my friend who just got married and finish knitting my sweater. Let me know what art project you hope to complete this year, and if you work in a STEAM field, tell us how art has impacted your career!

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