A few months into the 2021-22 school year, teachers, parents, and students are once again confronted with the devastating reality of pandemic-prompted learning loss. The global health crisis forced students out of the physical classroom and into a new virtual world for nearly two grades, and their initial homework and test scores reveal a significant decrease in knowledge transfer, social skills, and core learning habits across a variety of subjects.
Within the first quarter of this school year, gaps in academic proficiencies such as reading, writing and math have become prevalent. Furthermore, many students are struggling to reacclimate to in-person classes after extended periods of online learning, and attendance rates have dropped as a result. And while high school students dream of a return to normalcy, college prep and career readiness is more fraught with confusion than ever before as the world of higher education and the occupational opportunities available post-graduation have been disrupted by the pandemic.
So how can educators restore the learning systems eroded by COVID-19? And how can they better support students and education communities across the country in their shared mission to empower and inspire the next generation of leaders and innovators with the skills needed to thrive in their future careers? The answer lies in the inclusion of arts in a STEM-centered curriculum.
Science, technology, engineering, and math are broad but dynamic subjects that contain innumerable and specific learning concepts. Arts and sciences have traditionally been perceived as different subjects with few commonalities, and STEM programs often omit the arts from the conversation. But with a STEAM-centered curriculum, students are trained to introduce design, agile thinking, and creative solutions to solve social and scientific problems and bring new inventions to fruition. What’s more, a multi-subject approach to a STEAM education promotes deeper conceptual learning and career self-determination, and prepares youth for interdisciplinary STEAM careers in a rapidly changing workplace.
A STEAM learning approach encourages collaboration to understand and distill new concepts. By integrating the arts, a STEAM-centered curriculum uses tools such as quantitative visualization or fine arts imagery to deepen one’s understanding of science, math, and technology. This kind of imaginative processing creates a STEAM-oriented critical thinker who will have a better grasp of classroom subjects, apply learnings to test-taking, and even envision new ideas. From kindergarten through third grade, students can use pictures to unpack scientific processes such as photosynthesis or draw charts to learn counting patterns. For upper grades, team projects can revolve around design-thinking and leverage 3D printers to realize multidimensional objects, evolving science projects and theory models.