Friday, September 12, 2014

[Yasmin_discussions] Bringing STEM to Art

Annick's question illuminates an important point:

"is it a matter of 'exposure to art' or 'belonging to the right classes,
the right networks, having confidence, and the right skin color?'"

Based on the statistics, the answer simply might be, "Yes." According to
the U.S. Dept of Labor (in 2012), less than 5% of minorities go into STEM.
Many enter STEM programs but do not finish. Something is turning them off
to STEM even when they show interest in it early on.

Some minority students need role models who inspire them to pursue
STEM-related careers but what if there aren't any role models who reflect
the growing underrepresented ethnic population in a school program?

One of the reasons I point to the arts (and humanities) is because it
captures the interests and skills of minorities, including women and other
minority groups. In my research I have identified several professional
artists of color who employ STEM concepts in their work but these examples
are often excluded from STEM and STEM to STEAM discussions.

It's not a challenge to engage artists in STEM. However, It is more of a
challenge engaging STEM in the arts... and even more so in the cultural

Why are we not talking about rapper GZA's collaboration with physicists?
Grandmaster Flash's use of scientific method to engineer the cross-fader?
Or the use of DIY (do it yourself) production in underresourced
communities? Mexican students involvement in lowrider culture as an entry
to robotics/engineering? Sun Ra's experiments with the minimoog or John
Coltrane's interest in quantum physics?

GZA, a high school dropout, always had an interest in science but he never
made it into science until now. In GZA's own words, "I recently met with
quantum physicists who deepened my interest in the cosmos and gave me
further inspiration for this next album" GZA said in a press statement. "I
want to take my listeners on a journey through deep space and deconstruct
the idea of science fiction."

Some STEM educators may feel that the cultural arts are antithetical to
STEM. However, GZA's music and the other examples are shouting, 'Look! Here
are opportunities to engage underrepresented groups.' Others in STEM
education simply don't know how to find these examples but keep coming back
to the increasing disengagement of minorities in STEM.

*Nettrice R. Gaskins, Ph.D.*
STEAM Lab Director
Boston Arts Academy
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