STEM, STEAM and Edcamps

I have written before about unconferences, barcamps and other participant-driven professional learning events (usually free) where the attendees set the schedule and lead the sessions. These kind of events often don't have formal "presentations" but people come prepared with materials and will post what their session will be and others go to ones that interest them.

I attended a local one day free traditional conference (WETech) last week that focused on best practices of K-12 teachers using technology. In one session I heard about an upcoming STEAM unconference this summer in NJ.  S.T.E.A.M. stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Math. It's a variant of the most common STEM. 

logoThis event is being billed as Edcamp S.T.E.A.M., an unconference for K-12 educators exploring the intersection of those areas. The event is on July 31, 2013 at Linwood Middle School in North Brunswick, New Jersey. But what really interests me is the addition of the Arts to STEM.

Why add the arts? To quote their website:

Meaningful patterns. Artists create them; Scientists discover them. The arts help us to communicate and share ideas; we use the arts to explain and reflect our culture. How can it be possible to push forward with science, technology, engineering and math without the inclusion of the arts to make sense of it all. Consider all the data that is generated  from myriad sources. Art helps to make sense of that data in what is known as data visualization. Jer Thorp is an expert at taking data and turning it into something more useful. He aims to use “art as an axis to bring those two things [Science and design] together.“

STEAM also emphasizes the creativity and play of experimentation and research which is so important to
bringing more young people into the STEM fields. And it encourages the arts, which are often the first area to cut when school budgets are defeated. We should be gathering steam for arts education.

In a post from The Washington Post on the Top 10 skills children learn from the arts, the first skill listed is creativity.

If you're in the NJ area, you should consider attending and participating, but for a wider audience the takeaway for me is the bigger idea of using the arts to encourage STEM efforts.


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