As Albert Einstein once said, “the greatest scientists are artists as well.” Even a century ago, Einstein knew that the creativity that comes from being an artist or musician is critical to succeeding in science and technology. In today’s education system, however, art and STEM fields couldn’t be further apart. Nearly every parent and educator recognize the immense benefits of starting STEM education at an early age, from developing a child’s cognitive skills to preparing them for the careers of the future. However, not many parents realize that the creativity that comes from art and music education is equally important for children to thrive and succeed in our future economy. According to a group of Harvard Medical School researchers, learning a musical instrument in childhood is associated with increased IQ, creativity, verbal ability, and nonverbal reasoning. When these benefits of art education are combined with STEM education during early childhood, children’s potential for success increases dramatically.
A recent White House report found that employment opportunities in STEM fields are projected to grow about 7 times faster than all other fields. However, only 20% of high school grads are prepared for pursuing STEM fields in college. Although K-12 schools are rapidly expanding STEM education opportunities for students, it is clear that traditional education alone isn’t preparing children for the future. In addition to the lack of STEM preparation students receive, the vast majority of available careers when our children enter the workforce do not exist today. In order for children to succeed in our future economy, they not only need the critical thinking, analytical skills, and knowledge from rigorous STEM education, but also need the creativity, innovative mindset, and ability to collaborate that come from learning music and art. To solve the problems of our future, students will need to apply complex scientific and technological concepts in creative and innovative ways. Traditional STEM education must be expanded and integrated with arts education to prepare students for the future.
Innovative educators are realizing the unique needs of students today and have created a new educational model called STE(A)M (through integrating arts into STEM education). Previous research has shown that schools that added just 9 hours of STE(A)M education observed significant improvement in students’ scientific achievement. Rather than memorizing facts to pass a test, students learned to apply concepts in creative ways. Through pursuing art and music, students became significantly more curious and creative, which is critical for success as a programmer, scientist, engineer, or the STEM careers of the future. Through playing music with friends, students also learned to be more collaborative, which greatly improved their performance in STEM subjects at school and beyond.
Although school systems are slowly realizing the importance of integrating art and STEM education, it may take a while before this integrated approach is the new norm. Fortunately, parents don’t have to wait. Many resources have emerged in recent years to give parents the opportunity to supplement their children’s STEM and arts education to better prepare them for success in the future. Platforms such as CodeMonkey and Kahn Academy help kids learn critical coding skills and scientific concepts. Music and art programs, such as Virtu.Academy and Outschool allow kids to learn an instrument or explore other artistic endeavors. These resources make world-class STEM and music education accessible to students around the world, so they can be better prepared for our ever-changing world.
No one can know what careers our children will have the opportunity to pursue, but parents and educators must be proactive and provide students with the best possible chance of success through early education in both STEM and the arts.