STEM-Integrated Arts: A Discussion With Some “Sciencey” People


Presenters introduce participants to a professional development program, supported by a U.S. Department of Education grant, that promotes STEM-integrated visual arts classes. With increased STEM confidence and new technical skills, art teachers develop lessons for their standards-based art classes that use digital design, physical computing with programmable circuit boards and fabrication tools such as 3D printers and laser cutters/engravers. When students use these technologies as media for creating meaningful artwork, they likewise develop confidence in their abilities and broaden their identities both as artists and as “sciencey” people. This work with students from families with low incomes may help them imagine that they have a place in the future design economy (and in family-sustaining, in-demand STEM careers). STEM-integrated arts lessons (rather than arts-integrated STEM lessons) provoke questions about the various definitions of the transdisciplinary STEAM approach to education which typically include hands-on problem-solving, emphasis on process over product, creativity and the overlapping, transferable thinking skills that each of the component disciplines contain. Using chat, polls, breakout rooms and shared online documents during the session, presenters discuss the following with session participants:
  • Is there a distinction (or a need for one) between STEM and STEAM and who is included or excluded when we make a distinction?
  • Are there content and practices that are distinctly from the Arts that should be a more integral component of STEAM in order to distinguish it from STEM?


Ann Bebout, Professional Development Program Manager, Da Vinci Science Center
Karen Knecht, Senior Director of Education, Da Vinci Science Center

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Author profile

Title: 2280 Pasos Bajo un Cielo Nublado | Artist: Hernán Jourdan | Medium: Film

When I was asked to create a work of art exploring literacy, I wanted to create a dance but I had no dancers or a studio, so I chose to use my own body in the space I had, my yard. Fluent Nature is video of micro-choreography that explores what cannot be expressed with words, how nature has its own language, and how placing the human body in nature changes the story.

Title: What Is Me and What Is Not Me | Artist: Alex Chadwell | Medium: Music

My thinking on arts and literacy centers around the concept of literacies and artmaking as both sense-making and meaning-making processes that organically and inevitably overlap, intersect, and reciprocate. Compositionally, What is me and what is not me is a sound collage of sorts (there is no notation for the piece, and I'd be hard pressed to recreate it accurately) that abstractly and aurally represents the relationships between literacies and artmaking.

Title: A Curious Honeybee | Artist: Gideon Young | Medium: Film

Offering welcome through traditional and digital elements of literacy, A Curious Honeybee provides an experiential learning environment by activating visual, musical, natural, and emotional literacies.

Title: Tercera Llamada | Artist: Karilú Forshee | Medium: Audio

La Carpa Theatre is a project that I am currently directing in the Detroit Latinx community. The project aims to strengthen and uplift youth voices through devised theatre, in the style of the Mexican Carpas. This audio was created in the theatrical environment envisioned for our project. The ways in which literacies are re-defined are at the heart of La Carpa Theatre's mission.

Title: Literaseas | Artist: MJ Robinson | Medium: Graphite and ink on paper with digital edits

Title: A Riddle | Artist: MJ Robinson | Medium: Graphite on paper with digital edits

Title: False Binaries | Artist: MJ Robinson | Medium: Graphite on paper with digital edits