STEAM education is an approach to learning that uses Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics as access points for guiding student inquiry, dialogue, and critical thinking.
It is based on the idea that there are significant areas of overlap between the practices of art and science. These areas represent an opportunity to show how creative thinking increases when it occurs across multiple disciplines. STEAM is the new catch phrase in pedagogical circles and has gained huge public popularity in recent years; however, the concept of holistic and integrated learning has been at the heart of Steiner-Waldorf Education for almost a century.
The Waldorf methodology is unique because other curriculums have traditionally worked towards a separation of disciplines (for example by limiting subject choices a scientific or a humanities package), whereas ours continues in its full breadth until the 12th year.
A Roseway Waldorf graduate will experience, as an addition to the foundation laid in KG and primary school, another 5 years of science, mathematics, drama, art, music, craft, technology and more before they enter into their final exam preparation year. These subjects are taught in a dynamic and integrated manner: art and science are never divorced.
For example, in the high school, our Class 8 pupils study the mathematical beauty of the Platonic solids. They discover geometric laws for themselves through drawing and folding each of the five platonic solids: tetrahedron, cube, octahedron, dodecahedron and icosahedron. In Class 11, they will study projective geometry and work in a rigorous way again with art, geometry and algebra.
Similarly, in the Arts, mathematical concepts such as the golden ratio and symmetry in nature are explored. Through sculpture, human anatomy is given an artistic dimension which only deepens the learning that took place in the biology block. These few examples show how the STEAM concepts have always been a part of our methodology.
To many, art and science seem to be at odds – especially when it comes to creativity. Popular thinking sees art as being driven by emotions and inspiration, science by facts and information. The stereotypical artist is depicted as an extravagant individual while the scientist is jokingly referred as a socially inept “nerd”.
In fact, there are more similarities than differences in the gestures of the scientist and the artist. Both are passionate about meaningful questions – “How do I establish truth?”, “Why does it matter?” “How to make a difference?”
Arthur I. Miller, scientist and writer at University College London, says:
“Highly creative artists are driven by science. Art can also enable us to understand science better. Art is good for science. Both use aesthetics and beauty to enable us to better understand an external reality that is beyond our sense of perception.”
John Madea, President of the Rhode Island School of Design, also supports this point of view.
“We know that the scientist’s laboratory and the artist’s studio are two of the last places reserved for open-ended inquiry […], and for learning to occur by a continuous feedback loop between thinking and doing. Artists and scientists approach problems with a similar open-mindedness and inquisitiveness – neither fear the unknown, preferring leaps to incremental steps. They make natural partners. With such complementary thinking, there is great potential when they collaborate from the offset, resulting in unexpected outcomes that can be exponentially more valuable than when they work apart.”
This has huge implications for educators, and there are already extensive studies underway which are re-examining the way in which these subjects are taught in conventional schools.
For example, a recent study in America looked at 5th to 7th Grade girls’ conception of creativity, what implications this has for STEAM education and so concluded that STEAM education has the potential to increase our understanding of the many creative practices and dispositions that art and science have in common.
In this light, it is not surprising that many Waldorf graduates find themselves finishing high school with many possible life paths which could easily integrate the arts and traditional academies, in fact very often including a unique synthesis of the two.
If you’d like to understand more about Waldorf teaching methods, please contact us.