Combine Art with STEM Education to Improve Student Engagement


Yours Humanly

February 15, 2022

Combine Art with STEM Education to Improve Student Engagement

Standardized testing and the phrase “teach to the test” have become the main focus of education. STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) curriculum is important to give students practical, high-demand skills that will not only help them pass the test but also succeed in the workforce. However, adding the arts to create a STEAM curriculum has far-reaching benefits in our ever-shrinking world. 

While combining art with STEM education will improve student engagement, it also helps students master higher-order thinking skills like critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, and creativity and innovation. 

Nuts and bolts – STEM versus STEAM

Both STEM and STEAM strive to provide a comprehensive education for students. The cornerstone of STEM curricula is based on fact-based learning, while STEAM adds creativity through the arts.

More about STEM

At its core, STEM curriculum is designed to combine theoretical learning practices with hands-on experiential learning activities. In the beginning, STEM was created to quell the issue of students in the US being unprepared to enter the workforce. By and large, US learners were not achieving STEM concepts at the same rate as their counterparts in other areas of the world. 

Advancements in robotics, technology, automation, medicine, and civil infrastructure, to name a few, demand a knowledge-based education. The future requires people who can ensure the world’s health, safety, and productivity.

STEAM curricula include art

For a while, subjects like art and music went the way of the Dodo. Even today, art and music are constantly on the academic cut list because of budget cuts. However, Bloom’s Taxonomy emphasizes that skills learned in art and music are critical to a well-rounded education. 

A STEAM curriculum still has a focus on learning the concepts necessary for the world to keep spinning, but by adding art into the mix, students are provided with soft skills like collaboration, communication, and the ability to solve open-ended problems through critical thinking. Having art education (which includes art, music, dance, and drama) also helps students deal with stress.

Art calms the body and mind

When students are sitting in music class, practicing to play an instrument or diving into the history of a famous composer, they’re actually learning to manage stress. Research has shown a direct impact of art education on the stress-management hormone cortisol. Science Daily reports that 75% of people involved in an art activity enjoyed lower cortisol levels. Basically, they were less stressed after the activity than before. 

Why stress management matters in education

When students are able to live in a world with little stress, they are able to solve problems easier and enjoy the work they’re performing. Less stress also results in learner higher engagement. Students who engage in learning are also more likely to enroll in higher education. 

Not all students can manage stress easily

Increased stress levels are all too apparent in students living in low socioeconomic conditions. When students are susceptible to unhealthy conditions and high-stress environments, education becomes more difficult and often takes a back seat. 

The American Psychology Association (APA) confirms that students with a lower socioeconomic status (SES) and/or who are exposed to adversity suffer from decreased education success. The APA also asserts that SES is pertinent to “all realms of behavioral and social science.” This suggests that students who live in lower SES conditions can greatly benefit from a STEAM curriculum. 

The “A” in STEAM is critical

Building curricula that allow students to stand at the intersection of doing and creating creates an avenue for improving the lives of all students, including those living with lower SES. Today’s workforce values employees’ abilities to engage in teamwork and bring innovative ideas to resolve problems. The “A” facilitates students’ success in engaging with the world in a creative manner. 

Big picture visualization

Incorporating the “A” guides learners through critical thinking initiatives that allow them to see how the resolution of a problem affects the big picture of a situation. The arts also improve students’ communication abilities, which are vital to abilities like pitching ideas or writing grant applications in the workforce. 

How to incorporate the arts into a STEM curriculum

It’s easy to look at the research to see how arts are important to education. But, how do you weave arts into everyday teaching? The easy answer is, “Listen to the students.” Find out what they’re interested in and add a component of that to lessons. Find ways for students to build community connections to work on real-world problems. This promotes learning in a way that has a direct impact on everyday life.

STEAM is interdisciplinary

While adding the “A” is critical to a student’s success, its addition isn’t meant to downplay the significance of the “S, T, E, and M.” By combining learning approaches, themes, topics, and questions on a broad scope, students assimilate concepts into using a whole-learning methodology. 

In conclusion

There is nothing wrong with a STEM-only curriculum. It teaches students the concepts and protocols they need to be successful in life. However, having a STEAM curriculum that includes art adds abilities that improve both hard and soft skills. 

Yours Humanly® hosts family STEM and Art programs and provides kits to guide student success beyond the classroom. If you believe in the value of STEAM, please visit and see how you can make a difference in the life of a child in need through the power of education. 

Marsha Hebert

Marsha Hebert has a Master’s degree in Secondary Education. She fuses her degree with a passion for writing and a desire to see children become successful adults to author compelling content. Her goal is to drive awareness of problems children face and inspire champions among adults to steward educational initiatives for the benefit of students. Education shouldn’t be a privilege, it should be a right.