Leonardo DaVinci was famously an engineer, architect, scientist and, of course, a painter. “Why choose just one?” asked Shirley Malcolm of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in addressing participants at a national workshop RISD hosted on January 20 and 21. “Why was this artificial bifurcation made [between art and science] and how can we reconnect it?”
Sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF), Bridging STEM to STEAM: Developing New Frameworks for Art-Science-Design Pedagogy looked at ways educators and policymakers can begin to bridge this gap. In particular, the goal of this gathering of minds was to develop strategies to enhance STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math] education by integrating art and design – transforming STEM into STEAM and promoting the intellectual and creative potentials in the process.
The workshop brought together 60 leaders from the fields of science, creative IT, engineering, art and design, mathematics and education research to strategized about innovative ways to fuse these fields and teach new approaches to creative problem solving. RISD educators and Principal Investigators Christopher Rose and Brian K. Smith devised and organized the workshop, and half a dozen other key RISD educators participated in the series of provocative and inspiring discussions. Participants visited the RISD Nature Lab and Museum, incorporating various modes of knowledge building encounters and collectively moving through the different kinds of learning spaces available on campus.
“It’s not about adding on arts education,” noted Margaret Honey, president and CEO of the New York Hall of Science, in addressing the group. “It’s about fundamentally changing education to incorporate the experimentation and exploration that is at the heart of effective education.”
In their presentations and discussions, participants gave examples of successful creative collaborations. For example, Michael Benson, a photographer and filmmaker at Kinetikon Pictures talked about his solar system photography and Jonathan Harris, co-creator of We Feel Fine, showed examples of how he uses art and design in the form of information visualization to reveal the secrets and human empathy hidden in data-sets. An installation in London by the ‘The Breathing City’ [cross-disciplinary project with Holger Zschenderlein and Chris Rose], sponsored by the Royal Society of Science, showed links between data visualization in complex systems and public engagement with science.
According to Maeda, America’s ongoing focus on STEM education and ever more advanced technology to the exclusion of other subject areas is shortsighted. “Art and design are essential to humanizing technology,” he points out. “You need both in order to create balance and fuel true innovation.”
Funded by NSF grant number IIS-1046705.