From STEM to STEAM; Why the A Matters
Arts education has long been considered superfluous in relation to other academic subjects. Visual and (particularly) performing arts are often relegated to extra-curricular activities, which demand additional time and financial resources to participate in. Parents and students love art, but don't consider it meaningful enough to prioritize it as part of the curriculum, especially in the face of budget cutbacks. Recent research from Mississippi State University proves, however, that "effective classroom arts integration can reduce or eliminate educational achievement gaps for economically disadvantaged students."
And so STEM becomes STEAM. The problem is that so many of the schools which have had to make the most severe cuts to the arts in order to maintain Common Core standards in math and literacy are now even further from being able to integrate an arts curriculum. It becomes a downward spiral; arts are cut to provide more budgetary room and class time for testing, but since creative exposure to subject matter is such a powerful tool for memory and retention, students are less likely to succeed at the tests. Schools with low test scores are subject to additional testing and tutoring requirements for non-arts programs without receiving additional funding, which means even more "unnecessary" programs are eliminated.
One way to ease the burdens on under-funded schools and thus marginalized students and their families is to provide the supplies needed for creative education. Art supplies such as crayons, paper, pencils that we supply in our backpacks are just the first step to making sure each student has the tools to participate in arts education. But one of the larger problems with arts education is the inaccessibility of certain artforms, specifically the performing arts. Already seen as an almost exclusively extracurricular endeavor (band, theater, dance team, etc.), students who can’t afford to participate in extracurriculars due to time or financial constraints are excluded from these art forms. This is why we’re working with Silicon Valley Shakespeare to bring theater education into classrooms. The company already has a deep commitment to accessibility, annually producing free, public plays and offering in-class creative educational opportunities.
Created with an image by inspirexpressmiami - "blog word letters." Lead photo by Kristin Brown on Unsplash.