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STEM Without Flowers is Pretty Bleak

by on July 8, 2015

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.[1] 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.


[1]See also: http://stemtosteam.org/, http://steamedu.com/, http://steam-notstem.com/.

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