For a while we have heard a great deal about STEM. STEM is a curriculum based on the idea of educating students in four specific disciplines: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. This focus has understandably trickled down to the public library. While I support and see the value in the STEM disciplines, I must point out that a stem without flowers is pretty bleak. It is only through diverse and well-rounded education that true advancement can be made. Aesthetic and creative disciplines are as valuable as science and math. A liberal arts education still has value. It concerns me that as a culture we seem to be abandoning humanities and arts for science and technology, rather than trying to maintain a healthy balance.
I know that I am not alone in this perspective. Many voices are behind the push to add art and design into the educational mix. We need to convert STEM to STEAM. And public libraries can certainly contribute. Through our collections and programming we can create models for more well-rounded education. We can supplement what is becoming core education by offering a venue to teach the skills that are becoming obsolete. In other words, we can put the flowers on to the stems.
Here are some off-the-cuff suggestions for libraries to explore:
- Offer a program on the science of cooking that explains both the chemistry and the artistry involved
- Create a display of nature photography
- Ask an architect to discuss form and function of buildings
- Run a sci-fi book group
- Make hardware jewelry
- Have a sculpture contest
- Do an art program based on spirals
- Offer a program on electronic music
In fact, the possibilities can be endless. I would suggest a brainstorming session. Search your cataloging for key terms in the STEM disciplines and see where it takes you. Google terms you don’t normally put together to see where it leads: technology painting, creative mathematics, biological art?
I, for one, do not want a world that consists of only scientists. Nor do I want a world without science managed by artists. After all the years spent talking about left brain and right brained individuals, multiple intelligences, and diversity, education seems to be taking a step backward. I hope public libraries do not fall into the same trap. I truly believe that we need to cultivate the flowers so that we can have full, healthy plants. I also believe that this approach can create beautiful bouquets.