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Bridging the Art/Science Gap


Visitors to the NSF-sponsored workshop explored the connections between art and science in the evocative setting of the Nature Lab.

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?”

STEM to STEAM from STEM to STEAM on Vimeo.

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 by adding Art.

Hosted by RISD President John Maeda and Provost Jessie Shefrin, the workshop brought together 60 leaders from the fields of science, creative IT, engineering, art and design, mathematics and education research to strategize 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 organized the workshop, and half a dozen other key RISD educators participated in the series of provocative and inspiring discussions.  

STEM to STEAM Conversations from STEM to STEAM on Vimeo.

"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 illustrator 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 datasets.

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.”  

Summary by Dan Wieden from STEM to STEAM on Vimeo.

Related links:
Bridging Stem to Steam: Developing New Frameworks for Art/Science Pedagogy
Follow @stemtosteam on Twitter

tags: governmental, innovation, interdisciplinary, multimedia, partnerships + collaborations, public engagement, STEAM

A figure modeling class from 1916.