At the beginning of the 2012/2013 academic year, LWGMS faculty, staff, and board members began planning the launch of the first ever STEAM program (and summer camp!) for middle school girls in Seattle. At the April auction our community came together and raised a much appreciated $42,000 to outfit the STEAM Studio, support the STEAM faculty, and get our girls immersed in Design Thinking. We're so very excited!
From our head of school...
Why I think STEAM is better than STEM
There has been a focus on STEM education in the United States for decades, and a worthy push to get more girls interested in STEM fields as well. Women continue to be underrepresented in STEM fields. In fact, according to research conducted by the EdLab Group, there has actually been a decrease in girls in STEM fields. The STEMconnector report identifies potential interest in STEM fields at the high school level. Among the highlights:
- There has been a decrease among female interest in STEM careers over the past decade.
- The gender gap in STEM interest had remained steady over the past 20 years but it is now increasing at a significant rate.
- Overall, student interest in STEM decreases as they advance through the school system.
I believe that there has been a historical cultural error that has encouraged us to think that there is some inherent binary division between the kind of people interested in (or good at) math and science and those interested in the arts and humanities. It is this error that causes girls to think that STEM classes and STEM fields aren't for them. What is needed is for us to reunite art and science and recognize that even in the most “sciency” science lab and the most mathematical accounting desk, there is a need for creativity, problem-solving, and empathy.
Those are the skills inherent in design thinking. Once we embrace the A and all that goes along with art and design, girls will see the value in the other four letters and we will have a more diverse – and better – workforce in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math.
"Art and science – once inextricably linked, both dedicated to finding truth and beauty – are better together than apart." – John Maeda, President of RISD
I believe that all students should learn to take appropriate risks and make mistakes. A pedagogy grounded in design thinking not only allows for mistakes, it encourages them. Students are asked to identify a problem, ideate solutions, prototype a solution – and this is the best part – see how and why that solution is not perfect, and try again. I can think of no better time for girls to become comfortable with the design thinking process than middle school. It will poise them to be open to taking every opportunity high school has to offer and to be comfortable with being imperfect or even completely wrong occasionally – and that is how we teach girls to be self-confident, independent, and creative thinkers and learners.
Head of School