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Educators add Ag, Art to STEM curriculum

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The subjects of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, collectively known as STEM, are acknowledged as vital to American education.

Now, some educators state other important subjects should be added to STEM: agriculture and/or the arts. With this addition, STEM becomes STEAM.

“Agriculture is science and technology. Some would argue that if you understand science and technology it’s going to be in there and some argue that ‘some don’t think of agriculture that way’ therefore it should be added,” said Neil Knobloch, associate professor of youth development and agricultural education at Purdue University. “Either way, you can’t ignore that agriculture is one of the largest industries and important to our future.”

Due to a projected global population increase, Knobloch said it’s going to be vital to find new ways to feed this growing population. Also, people will look to agriculture to provide renewable energy sources. 

He adds that urban Hoosier students should be just as invested in agriculture as their rural peers. Urban farming has become important to agriculture. 

Adding agriculture to STEM curriculum seems like a no-brainer in Indiana.

The Hoosier state is known for its high production of corn, a versatile agricultural staple used as livestock feed, a vehicular fuel source and high fructose corn syrup. 

In addition to corn, Indiana’s fertile soil produces soybeans and wheat. The timber and livestock industry, which is a part of the agricultural industry, is also an important economic contributor in Indiana. 

Knobloch said the addition of agriculture to STEM programs are currently being integrated into classes. High school agriculture teachers, like those at Emmerich Manual High School are already teaching students. 

“You also have teachers that do it through agricultural literacy. So during this time of year teachers would teach about pumpkins,” said Knobloch. “A third way is through Integrated STEM Education Initiative where we’re training teachers no matter their discipline. We’re being more intentional about adding agriculture into existing subject matter.”

In addition to agriculture, there is a movement to add arts to STEM curriculum. Proponents state art is also vital to economic success. John Maeda of the Rhode Island School of Design said artists and designers bring STEM to life.

“As we all know, STEM is so important – but on its own, it’s not working. It doesn’t inspire, energize or engage the youth whom it is ultimately intended to benefit,” said Maeda. 

“It’s artists and designers who tell stories to move, to inspire, to entertain, to persuade.”

Shannon McCullough, director of admissions and student services at the Herron School of Art and Design at IUPUI, said the campus is putting the “A” in STEAM in incredible ways.

“We have a lot of partnerships with many of the STEM disciplines,” she said. “So many people are needing that artistic understanding of how certain things work and sometimes the best person to create that is someone with an art perspective and one who understands aesthetics.”

For example, McCullough said some furniture design students are working on craftsmanship with engineers in motorsports. 

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