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Renewed Congressional Support for STEAM

Renewed Congressional Support for STEAM

Members of two Congressional caucuses announce the new STEM to STEAM Act of 2017 at a briefing on Capitol Hill.

RI Representative Jim Langevin (center) tours Co-Works, an interdisciplinary maker space, during a recent visit to RISD.

On Thursday, July 20, US Representatives Jim Langevin (D-RI), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Elise Stefanik (R-NY) introduced the STEM to STEAM Act of 2017, a new bill designed to promote the integration of art and design into the National Science Foundation’s Advancing Informal Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Learning program. They announced the latest bill at a joint briefing on Capitol Hill hosted by the Congressional STEAM and Career and Technical Education (CTE) caucuses.

The STEAM cause got a new burst of energy during a Congressional briefing in the Rayburn Building.

At the briefing, RISD’s Director of Government Relations Babette Allina spoke about STEAM as one of four panelists. She discussed the importance of the ongoing effort to advocate for integrating art and design into more curricula with Theresa Peterson from GE Global Research, teacher Danielle Meyer from Washington and Lee High School in Arlington, VA and Daniel Grumbles, an Arlington public school student.

Allina (center) speaking at the briefing.

Rep. Langevin, who co-chairs the Congressional CTE Caucus, applauded RISD “for leading this integrated approach” to education. “Art and design promote creativity and innovation, skills that are essential to the disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” the RI Congressman noted. “In order to maintain our economic competitiveness in the 21st century, we need to cultivate innovation by educating our students so that they emerge as the most creative graduates on the planet. Incorporating art and design into informal STEM education programs will help spur interest and excitement about STEM learning.”

In RISD’s Experimental and Foundation Studies program students use math and science skills along with art and design to create innovative work.

The bill amends the STEM Education Act of 2015 by directing the NSF to make grants available to support the design and testing of informal STEAM programs to improve educational outcomes, advance the field of STEAM education and promote creativity and innovation. Informal learning opportunities include afterschool programs; museums, nature labs and other exhibition initiatives; and science and technology center community programs, among other out-of-school learning opportunities.

“Art and design have unlimited real-world applications that... offer new models for creative problem solving and interdisciplinary partnerships.”

“Art and design have unlimited real-world applications that contribute unique solutions to our everyday lives,” the bipartisan Congressional co-chairs note in a statement accompanying the announcement of the new bill. “They distinguish American products in a global marketplace and offer new models for creative problem solving and interdisciplinary partnerships…. In order to strengthen this pipeline of innovation, we must integrate art and design into the STEM education fields, turning STEM to STEAM.”

President Somerson speaking to Rep. Langevin and others at a meeting on campus.

“A RISD education emphasizes that in order to effectively tackle the critical and complex challenges of today’s world, our graduates need to use their creativity, inventiveness and diverse perspectives to lead,” President Rosanne Somerson 76 ID notes in the Congressional announcement “Thanks to the dedicated members of the Congressional STEAM and CTE caucuses, this bill will open new avenues for the impact of STEAM education to enhance learning outcomes more broadly, increasing avenues for advancement, exploration and innovation.”

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