The Play’s The Thing

Injecting creativity into STEM

Boy-glasses-colourful-brain-sketch - fro

STEM, an acronym I’m sure you all know, stands for Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics. The term has been around for approximately 20 years and it is still the main learning philosophy in many schools all around the world. Why? Because it’s believed that if you study these subjects you will get the ‘best job’.

I understand the importance and the value of these subjects, but the whole STEM ethos doesn’t really sit well with me. Should these four disciplines always be at the forefront of the learning process? I don’t think so.

The Arts and creativity to me are critical to education, and to life.

Years ago whilst working for the BBC Open University Production Centre I had the privilege to work with Professor Ken Robinson. I have always loved his truly inspirational TED Talk. This one is from 2006 when he asked ‘Do Schools Kill Creativity’. He made some excellent points and absolutely hit the nail on the head for me when he said, “creativity is as important as literacy".

Do you agree? Even though this talk is 14 years old, his words are still hugely relevant today. Here’s the link:

With STEM subjects always talking precedence over the Arts, we are taking away opportunities for young people to either continue being creative or experience creativity? Like Sir Ken says in his talk - ‘we are educating people out of their creativity’.

We need to start creating conditions where young people can let their natural creative talents flourish.

From a young age we are given the opportunities to put these talents into practice. At primary school we experience painting, dancing, music, singing and acting. From secondary school onwards these Arts experiences slowly diminish, and the curriculum narrows as we lose much needed investment. Without the funding we are at risk of losing brilliant new talent.

We certainly don’t want to put out that creative fire by teaching students four subjects which are of course important, but may also limit them and dull their confidence and artistic passion. It’s also interesting to note that 1 in 5 jobs in the South East are in the creative industries with an overall turnover of something like 94 billion.

This is where STEAM comes in. It takes STEM to the next level just by adding the Arts (A).

It incorporates the benefits of STEM and injects creativity and innovation to give a more complete, well-rounded education. It develops interests and skills in creative subjects and provides young people with key attributes needed to thrive. Let’s also remember that scientists also are also creative. Creative thinking is vital to everyone.

I completely understand that everyone is different. Some of us excel in STEM and others in the Arts. But wouldn’t it be great to give everyone the same opportunity to find out which is the best path for them and their future?

This collaboration of STEM with the Arts is very exciting. We need creative people within the Arts sector, but we also need creative scientists and engineers. Creativity is key.

We need to equip our children with the tools, experience and knowledge they need to succeed in life. Give them great opportunities to be able to make the right choices for them. They are our future workforce after all.