Turning STEM to STEAM: Why the Arts matter for children

Categories: JCC

canstockphoto10598528Think for a moment about the children in your life: your kids, your nieces and nephews, your friends’ and neighbors’ children. How many of them do you think would be able to identify Raphael, Donatello, Michelangelo, and Leonardo as anything other than Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?

In today’s world of smartphones and selfies, we’ve seen a lot of wringing hands and gnashing teeth surrounding the measurable gap between U.S. students’ math and science learning and that of their counterparts in other nations.

The deficiency is real, and it surely deserves – even demands – our attention and our action. Unfortunately for our children, and our culture, attention and action often focuses so keenly on the science and math outcomes (or, sometimes more broadly the STEM fields: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), that the arts are at best ignored and at worst denigrated as a distraction.

In reality, when the arts are one of the inputs of a student’s education, their STEM outcomes improve. Educational Leadership reports arts curriculum has a measurable effect. Among others, they cite a 100 point increase in SAT scores, and improved diagnostic ability in musically-trained physicians.

Multiple Physics Nobel-laureates have artistic training of one sort or another. In fact, after studying scientists, researchers from Michigan State University, Robert and Michelle Root-Bernstein concluded “The most eminent and innovative among them are significantly more likely to engage in arts and crafts avocations” than more average individuals (as quoted on Raise Smart Kids).

Children's Cultural ArtsIn short, exposure to the arts and arts education don’t just teach children about culture (though surely that is not an outcome to scoff); they aren’t a luxury. They teach important life skills: creativity, confidence, the importance of practice, problem solving, collaboration, the ability to receive feedback, and accountability.

Our twenty-first century world often seems defined by the desire for instant gratification, the need for sameness, a low tolerance for any kind of critique, and an anonymity that undermines accountability. Arts are the antidote to what ails us. STEAM, not STEM, is what will move us forward.

Continue the arts education of the children in your life at the Simon Family JCC. From the well-rounded activities at Camp JCC to our Children’s Cultural Arts Series, we can help your family participate in and celebrate the arts.