By now everyone is familiar with the acronym STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and the important role it plays in K-12 curriculum. STEM education is incredibly important for preparing today’s students to enter the green workforce and participate in a global society. However, one variable has been missing from the equation and only recently has its absence been noted. This variable, the arts (or the “A” in STEAM), may seem at first blush like a world apart from the logic-driven nature of the sciences. Look deeper and you will see that art and science go hand-in-hand quite naturally.

 

As I conducted research for my dissertation on ecological identity development, I was struck by how the scientists I studied were not only driven to learn how nature works, but at the same time were enamored by the beauty inherent in nature’s patterns. From flowers to snail shells, if you look closely enough at nature you will see there is logic embedded in the natural world. But there is also beauty and creativity. This is a major reason why nature is the ideal 21st century classroom: it provides students with the means to develop both their right and left brains, allowing them to nurture a creative nature and their innate curiosity. For the student who struggles with science, the arts can be the opening he or she needs to understand science less as dogma and more as natural beauty.

 

This issue of GreenNotes explores how STEAM is being incorporated into the classroom. For example, you will learn how Project Lead The Way’s engineering curriculum is inspiring students from Kindergarten to 12th grade to apply critical thinking and problem solving skills to solve some of our most pressing environmental issues. Sticking with the engineering theme, Marietta City Schools shares how two unique projects, the Haiti Container Building Project and EARLS Lab, are teaching students 21st century skills while building a STEM pipeline in the local community. You will also hear how Ford Elementary School in Acworth, Georgia (site of one of the Green Schools Conference and Expo’s pre-conference tours!) is integrating STEAM education across all grade levels. Shifting focus to the arts and creative design, the Biomimicry Institute describes how their global design challenges are encouraging students to explore creative problem-solving while engaging with nature. Finally, you will hear how one entrepreneur is bringing STEAM curriculum and energy infrastructure together to create a next generation solution that will revolutionize how schools meet their energy needs while teaching students about sustainability.

 

More and more, scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs are looking to nature to solve some of society’s greatest challenges. Their ability to use logic while being creative is essential to the successful adoption of solutions that will benefit people and planet. And that starts with STEAM in the classroom.

 

Until next month,

 

Jenny