Sunday, November 29, 2015

[Yasmin_discussions] STEM, STEAM, STEAMS

from sheila pinkel in california
roger malina


By Sheila Pinkel, September 2015

Due to poor U.S. student performance in the sciences, in 2006 the STEM
concept for enhancing education in science, technology, engineering
and mathematics was introduced in classrooms. (1). Beginning in 2012
educators in Massachusetts, New Mexico and Rhode Island started
experimenting with STEAM, adding art to the educational model. The
chief objectives of the STEAM movement, according to RISD, were to
"transform research policy to place art and design at the center of
STEM" and "influence employers to hire artists and designers to drive
innovation." Educators also said they wished to see art and design
take a more central role in education, from kindergarten through
college. (2)

I applaud these initiatives to enhance interdisciplinary learning.
However, there is an important component still missing. Society, or
STEAMS, needs to be added to create a complete educational model in
which the history and social implications of science, social science
and art are considered as well.

Historically there are very famous examples of the importance of
understanding the social implications of scientific research. For
instance, Leo Szilard, the first physicist to conceive of a chain
reaction that could become an atomic bomb, in 1939 authored with
Albert Einstein a letter to President Franklin Roosevelt expressing
his concern about Germany making an a-bomb first. However, once the
Manhattan Project had produced one, in the spring of1945 Szilard
became concerned about consequences of using the a-bomb before an
international control agreement had been discussed with the Soviets.
After WWII Szilard founded the Council for a Livable World because he
understood the importance of creating dialogue about the developments
in science, especially as they relate to issues of war and peace.

Today it is important to consider the social implications of a
worldview that has shifted from the domain of religion and philosophy
to the sciences. Changing cosmological paradigms on the part of
physicists because of rapidly changing knowledge about the macrocosm
and microcosm in the universe has resulted in a master narrative about
cosmological origins that is in constant flux. However, there is
little commentary about this shifting construct of 'truth' and its
affect on our lives and culture. As a result, when I asked may people
about their thoughts about finally being able to 'see' the Higgs
Boson, they said that it didn't matter to them because it has no
impact on their lives.

In colleges and universities, the fragmented nature of an educational
system in which the implications of economic paradigms or views of
history are considered separately from the arts and sciences has led
to a lack of dialogue about these inter relationships. Thus, often the
human and social implications of the direction of research or works
produced are absent and there is not a conceptual container to
facilitate these discussions.

Some educational institutions have added social and/or
multidimensional courses to their curriculum. For instance, Pitzer
College, Claremont, CA., requires all students to spend a semester
living and/or working with a local community to better understand the
realities and dilemmas confronting the people in that community. Bryn
Mar College, PA, offers three courses in one semester in which the
same fifteen students look at a subject from various perspectives all
semester. In the fall of 2015 the same students studied issues of
incarceration in three classes, taught by a political science
professor, social science professor, English professor and art

By adding 'society' to STEM and STEAM, the terrain for social,
political, economic and/or historic discourse is available for an
added dimension of dialogue and understanding to take place.
Questioning the social implications of what we do can create clarity
and help guide our life choices.

(1) "Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)
Education: Background, Federal Policy and Legislative Action" (2008),
Jeffrey J. Kuenzi, Congressional Research Service Reports, Paper 35,

(2) "Gaining STEAM: Teaching Science though Art", US News NEWS: Eliza
Krigman, Feb. 13, 2014.

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