The Arts and Sciences
How two subjects taught separately need to be brought together much more often.
Recently, Netflix released a new series aimed at young girls- and I have watched all of it and I’m begging for more. Project Mc2 (squared) revolves around the main character, a super smart teen girl who loves science, math, and technology, and also belongs to an international spy organization run entirely by women. The main character joins forces with five other ethnically diverse girls who each have powerful strengths in technology, chemistry, biology, math, and the fifth- most surprisingly, the arts.
Growing up, I’ve always had a tendency to gravitate towards the arts, always making or drawing something, but I have also loved the sciences. Raised on shows like Zoom on PBS in the early 00’s, to the long-running Mythbusters and How It’s Made on the Discovery Channel, fed my scientific curiosity. In high school I pushed myself, though bad at math, to take AP Chemistry, because I loved the concepts and learning how things work through the lens of science.
Bridging the two subjects in careers are Engineering and Industrial Design, with the first leaning closer to science and math, and the other leaning towards the arts. Yet in all education leading up to college, the arts and sciences are kept in separate classes, and students are often bucketed into math/science types, and into art/humanities types. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but including both subject areas on a project when possible will create new, more innovative approaches to whatever problems are being tackled. With the rapid advancement of technology, we needs art-minded people to make that technology usable. Scientists discover and make things that are cool and seen as valuable, but that means nothing until a designer puts that new technology into an interface that can be marketable and used by anyone. Before we had robots that sweep our houses and mow our lawns, we had a robotics engineer that found a way to program robots, and then we had a designer that put that technology to practical use by designing the Roomba that’s sold at Target, and Honda’s Miimo, an automatic lawn mower.
Though there are several schools that try to morph STEM learning into STEAM learning, adding Arts to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, I know firsthand it’s a long process to convince both students and educators of the value and importance of creative thinking. My current internship is working at a middle school to add in more of the arts into the curriculum. I volunteer with the school’s STEM club, where students enter engineering and science competitions. Try as I might to instill creative thinking, such as thinking of multiple solutions to the problem the students are solving, instead of just running with the first one, and then asking the students to quickly sketch several renditions of the problem, no matter their art skills. By doing these exercises, it helps the students understand that the first answer isn’t always the best answer, and that even the “bad” or failed sketches are valuable to their learning. Unfortunately due to both time and patience constrains, these practices often do not happen.
Judging by the Netflix series, hopefully the marriage of the arts and sciences is becoming a bigger trend- putting value in all types of skills will not only increase the confidence and capabilities of students, but can further advance humanity’s work.