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Friday, September 25, 2020

STEAM adds art into the mix of STEM

In this project, students Ella Lamont, Jayla Mills, Bonnie Smerdon and Kimberly Williams addressed issues of oceanic pollution by creating jellyfish out of plastic materials. This is indicative of possible courses offered through the new STEAM minor. // Photo courtesy of Cynthia Camlin
In this project, students Ella Lamont, Jayla Mills, Bonnie Smerdon and Kimberly Williams addressed issues of oceanic pollution by creating jellyfish out of plastic materials. This is indicative of possible courses offered through the new STEAM minor. // Photo courtesy of Cynthia Camlin

A new minor offered next year in the art department called STEAM will help students understand art as an important part of science, technology, engineering and math, the fields of study commonly known as STEM.

“Say you’re an artist who’s really interested in painting clouds,” professor of art Gaye Green said. “If you learn all of the scientific information behind cloud formation and analyze what clouds look like, why they look the way they do, all of that understanding enhances your ability to paint a cloud, I think.”

Green designed the new STEAM minor, an integration of visual art and the traditional science and tech fields, after realizing many of the faculty in the arts department already had strong ties with science, tech and math.

Associate professor Cynthia Camlin is one of those in the department that creates science-based artwork, which often address issues like climate change.

The main benefits of the STEAM minor is utilizing art to bridge the gap between what scientists know and what the public believes or imagines, Camlin said.

Almost every student that has applied for the minor is majoring in a science field, but the students still wanted to incorporate the arts into their studies, Green said.

“I think that the STEM areas can inform the arts and vice versa,” Green said. “Should you look at what the arts can do for science or what science can do for art? I prefer to look at what they both have in common.”

Between 23 and 25 credits are needed to complete the STEAM minor. Some of the courses offered include glass blowing, photography, videography and an introduction to computer game development, and the department plans on adding more courses to the list in the future, according to the minor’s webpage. Students interested in the minor don’t have to come in with any art background.

Summer Delgado, a student of Green’s and an art teacher, pointed out Leonardo da Vinci was a painter, scientist, inventor and engineer.

“Including the arts in your field is just one more tool in your belt to solve problems,” Delgado said.

Art is the first sacrifice when it comes to school budget cuts, said Jennie de Mello e Souza, an art teacher and one of Green’s students.

“The goal is to foster the true innovation that comes with combining the mind of a scientist or technologist with that of an artist or designer.”

STEAM minor’s website

“To teach other subjects through art and incorporate art into other subjects is just so valuable,” de Mello e Souza said. “I just think it makes everything more rich, more vivid, and gives a deeper understanding and a level in their minds where [students] are like, ‘I really will remember that.’”

Students are limited if they only focus on STEM subjects in school, Green said.

“You lose some of the flavor of education I think, and you don’t incorporate creativity and imagination and divergent thinking,” Green said.

The minor would be a great fit for future educators as schools nationwide are pushing to add art into science and tech coursework in the classroom, Delgado said.

The Rhode Island School of Design, a four-year college specializing in studio-based art, is a leading advocate of incorporating the arts into STEM subjects.

Scientists and artists alike are often creative risk-takers that have strong curiosities, and both fields use visualization and problem solving, Green said.

De Mello e Souza, a scientific illustrator, said she was always fascinated by science and art.

“I started out in high school thinking I wanted to major in biology,” de Mello e Souza said. “I wanted to be a marine biologist more than anything, but I got more joy out of actually drawing, so when I saw that there was a way to combine the two, scientific illustration was a perfect fit.”

“The goal is to foster the true innovation that comes with combining the mind of a scientist or technologist with that of an artist or designer,” according to the minor’s website.

To find out more about the STEAM requirements and courses, visit Western’s College of Fine and Performing Arts website or contact Green at Gaye.Green@wwu.edu.

 

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