News from the Field
perceptions of steam
As we look at perceptions of STEAM in this newsletter issue, it is helpful to look at some of the work that already has been done to understand the many lenses through which STEAM is perceived.
Important work in this area has been done by the Arts Education Partnership (AEP). A national network of organizations that helps advance arts education, AEP focuses on research, policy, and practice. Below are some STEAM policy briefs that AEP has produced.
Preparing Students for Learning, Work and Life.
P-5 STEAM Education and Equity.
Research and Policy Implications of STEAM Education for Young Students.
Who’s Who in STEAM Education and State Governance.
By David Pyle, Collaborative Advisory Council member*
"I'm very concerned that the visual thinking mind - the art mind — is being screened out of school,” said Dr. Temple Grandin during a rapid-fire widely broadcast interview hosted as a partnership between the Colorado State University Arts Management program and the International Art Materials Trade Association (NAMTA).
On February 23, I had the pleasure and privilege of hosting this special Zoom-based conversation with Dr. Grandin as she discussed the principles in her new book, Visual Thinking; The Hidden Gifts of People Who Think in Pictures, Patterns, and Abstractions. In her book — and during the Zoom-based program - she repeatedly emphasized the critical importance of learning in the arts — not just for their standalone value — but also for their impact in cultivating skills for which our larger communities and economy have a direct and dramatic need.
"We're seeing a gigantic shortage in the skilled trades — and those are where we need the art mind," she said.
Dr. Grandin is a professor of animal science at Colorado State University and the author of New York Times bestsellers Animals in Translation, Animals Make us Human, The Autistic Brain and Thinking in Pictures, which became an HBO movie starring Claire Danes.
"When I was a child, art was my absolutely favorite class. Art and mechanics go together," noted Dr. Grandin. "(But now) we've got too many kids who have never done any art. Who have never used any tool. We are losing skills! We've lost the clever fixers!"
She also cites sewing as a powerful skill-building tool. "I sewed costumes for the school play. I was not interested in being IN the school play. I wanted to make costumes FOR the school play."
In her book, Visual Thinking, Dr. Grandin adds, "We screen out designers, inventors, and artists. We need future generations who can build and repair infrastructure, overhaul energy and agriculture, create tools to combat climate change and pandemics, develop robotics and AI. We need people with the imagination to invent our next-generation solutions." (Visual Thinking, p. 55)
As further evidence of the need for arts experiences, she noted that "Nobel prize winners are 50% more likely to have an arts and craft hobby compared to other scientists." (Robert Root Bernstein et.al. 2008)
As the session approached its close, I asked her, "You've made such a strong and compelling case for hands-on arts education, how can we move past preaching to the choir? How can we advocate for arts education to the larger community?"
She quickly answered, "I think we have to do it one school district at a time. And then we need to write about it."
*David Pyle is an artist and Instructor in the Colorado State University Arts Management program in addition to being Creative Director of Pyle Creative Studio. He is known for his 35-year career in the art products business. There he most recently was Senior Vice President/Group Publisher for F+W Media, managing The Artist’s Magazine, American Artist, Watercolor Artist, Interweave Knits, Love of Quilting, and more. He is author of What Every Artist Needs to Know About Paints and Colors.
Free Summer Virtual STEAM Professional Development for Public School K-12 Teachers