STEAM vs STEM – Arts or Aesthetics?


STEM vs. STEAM: Do the Arts Belong?

Ann Jolly of explores the debate over adding “Arts” to the STEM movement in Education Week’s STEM vs. STEAM: Do the Arts Belong?

She shares ideas about the characteristics of quality STEM programs and asks what a STEAM program should include.

“A tug of war is currently looming between proponents of STEM education (science, technology, engineering, and math) and advocates for STEAM lessons, which add art to the mix. Whichever side you come down on, here are some ideas for you to mull over.”

Does including the”A” matter? How can the arts be incorporated into STEM as an applied subject?

Ms. Jolly proffers a few ideas for giving STEM projects some STEAM:

  • Design. Art can serve a practical function. Students might apply design and decoration to products that were created during the course of a design challenge. They could use computer graphics to create logos or stylized designs to include in communications or presentations. Through industrial design, students could improve the appearance, design, and usability of a product created during a STEM project.
  • Performing arts, such as drama and speech. What about technical or persuasive writing? Those arts fit naturally into the “Communications” stage of the engineering design process. They would work well as part of a STEM project. (If you want students to get REALLY ambitious and creative, check out this video of students in Paraguay who made instruments out of discarded materials!)
  • Creative planning. As students brainstorm solutions for an engineering problem, encourage them to adopt a playful, inventive, artistic approach. Calling on their artistic right brain can help them to generate more creative and innovative thinking.

To read more visit For more opinions on STEAM, visit Reflections ~ How STEM Becomes STEAM.

Anne Jolly (@ajollygal) is a Virtual Community Organizer for the CTQ Collaboratory and a member of the CTQ Thought Leaders Circle. Anne taught middle school science for 16 years in the Mobile County Public School System and is a former Alabama State Teacher of the Year. She is a published author and currently writes middle school STEM curriculum. Anne blogs regularly at STEM by Design on MiddleWeb.

©2014-2024 GirlsGo - a community where students go learn, earn, share, collaborate, mentor, engineer, research, influence, sell, fundraise, hack, search, challenge, make, write, give, play, grow, think, change, shop, dream, create, pursue, and ACHIEVE!


Send us a note. We will reply as soon as we can!



Log in with your credentials

Forgot your details?