I am a firm believer that there is an intrinsic link between the arts and the math and science disciplines. While many people recognize both Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo for their remarkable contributions to the art world, their contributions to math, science and engineering are often overlooked. How can great artists also be great scientists? Because those disciplines are intrinsically linked.
Rather than STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), I am a huge proponent of STEAM education—which is simply STEM + the arts. Not only does the incorporation of art into a good science and math curriculum help build the foundation for creative innovation down the road, but arts can also make the “boring” disciplines more fun. Making science and math fun is extremely important, because there is a precipitous decline in the interest of both math and science by the time children reach the sixth grade. If we make these disciplines fun early on, kids will stay hooked through middle school, high school and their secondary education.
Last week I had the opportunity to watch as a room of preschoolers learned about engineering through the arts. The guest teacher was an artist by trade, and did a wonderful job of walking the preschool aged children through a six step engineering process through song, dance and theater. In discussions with the artist after the exercise, she said that a few children have been seen applying the six step process to issues they encounter on the playground. Even though engineering falls outside of the preschool standards in Loudoun County, the lessons taught by the artist have resulted in practical application.
As the CEO of an IT security company, I recognize the benefits of a strong STEAM curriculum both locally and nationally. Yes, improving the quality of STEAM education improves the quality of my future employee pool—but the importance of STEAM education runs much deeper than finding talented software engineers for our company. In case you missed it, cyber is the newest of the five warfighting domains. Cyberwarriors are in high demand in our country, and without highly skilled software engineers and security professionals, our national security is at risk. And the cyber domain is only becoming more complex by the day.
We need to engage our young minds early in their schooling, and teach them that science and math can be both fun and cool—and what better way, than through the arts.