Changing STEM to STEAM: Why Art Belongs IN the Sciences

By Domenica Di Piazza, Editorial Director of Twenty-First Century Books

It’s a safe bet that educators know what STEM stands for: science, technology, engineering, and math. Recently, a fifth letter—A—has joined the familiar acronym. It stands for “art and design.” What, you might ask, does art have to do with the other sciences?

Championed by Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in Providence, RI, the inclusion of art and design is a concerted effort to support and promote innovation and creative thinking in the curriculum. And the STEM to STEAM movement is gaining traction across the nation. Check out this map to learn more about where and how STEM is becoming STEAM.

And it’s not just RISD driving the shift. Doctors and researchers are finding powerful connections between the human brain and the arts through neurological studies and creative collaborations with performing artists.

STEAM supporters

Neurologists already know that music has healing properties. And they know that music stimulates all areas of the brain simultaneously.

  • Albert Einstein played classical violin for brainstorming purposes.
  • Fabiola Gianotti is the first female director of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), where the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator is deep underground outside Geneva. She wanted to be a professional ballerina and then a classical pianist (she has a degree in piano performance) before physics won out.
  • Top American soprano Renée Fleming has joined an exciting collaboration with the Sound Health initiative, a partnership between the National Institutes of Health and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC, to study exactly how music affects the brain.
Renée Fleming (R) at MacPhail Center for Music in Minneapolis, 2016

We also know that many people who are successful in computer science have a deep connection to the arts!

  • Parisa Tabriz, Chrome security engineering manager at Google, was seriously considering becoming an artist because she was so enthusiastic about drawing and painting.
  • NASA software engineering pioneer Margaret Hamilton started out with a passion for literature and philosophy. She tells young people to play games and to study the arts and history along with STEM content.

Why? Together, these endeavors all foster creativity, problem solving, teamwork, and collaboration. Hamilton says they are as important for living life as they are for building a career.

So, are you ready to add the A to STEAM?

Read more

Parisa Tabriz and Margaret Hamilton are profiled in these two titles in the STEM Trailblazer Bios series:

Space Engineer and Scientist Margaret Hamilton (available through and all major distributors)

Google Cybersecurity Expert Parisa Tabriz (available through and all major distributors)

For more posts by Domenica, click here

One thought on “Changing STEM to STEAM: Why Art Belongs IN the Sciences

  1. Jennifer Lane Wilson

    I love the STEAM concept. Let’s embrace both creativity and logical analysis, whether that’s expressed in the arts or the sciences.

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