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January 4, 2023

At first glance, it may be difficult to understand how creativity and the arts have a place in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Some students, especially those drawn to creative activities, may think STEM simply isn’t for them. That’s too bad, because creativity in STEM is the only way innovations come to fruition! Experiences that help students connect the dots are essential to growing new innovators.

Robotic Science — Without the Fun

Think back to the science classes you had in school. Did they mostly consist of robotically memorizing vocabulary words and formulas and watching passively as the teacher did weekly experiments at the front of the room? Or did you do exciting group science projects throughout the community on topics that interested you? What was great? What was missing? How did those classes make you feel about science — and about yourself? Be sure to pull from your own experiences, from boring to good to great, to help you design engaging STEM activities for your students. Remember: A basic need for children is to express themselves and be creative — so use that to your advantage!

Metaphorically Speaking…

According to Dr. Ainissa Ramirez, author of Save Our Science, creativity is less of a skill and more of a metaphor. This means that, just as metaphors create a link between two seemingly unrelated ideas, creativity in STEM consists of finding unlikely connections between two different concepts. For example, light waves aren’t actually waves, but they behave as such. Newton discovered how celestial bodies, the planets, and gravity were all interconnected, all because of a fallen apple. Dr. Ramirez explains that we “need to create scholars that can link the unlinkable. These scholars must be willing to try many combinations before finding the right answer.” Fostering creativity (connection-making) in STEM can give your students the superpower to think creatively in the career field of their choice! For example, a unique advertising campaign, an engaging website, and an aesthetically pleasing building all require a creative spark in addition to specialized skills and knowledge.

Somewhere Over the (Creativity) Rainbow

Now that you know how beneficial creative thinking through STEM can be, let’s explore the Y4Y courses that will get the gears turning for your staff and students:

  • Citizen Science gives students the opportunity to collaborate with professional scientists on real-world problems by gathering and analyzing data through hands-on research.
  • Math Without Fear allows students and staff to build math knowledge, skills, and understanding in ways that can be applied to real-world situations like baking and driving.
  • With Y4Y’s STEAM course, staff can dive into the interdisciplinary evolution of STEAM (STEM plus the arts) and its many benefits.

Here are some ways to encourage creativity:

  • Create a stimulating physical environment, one that’s inclusive and allows for a variety of arrangements to encourage collaboration, problem-solving, creativity, and communication.
  • Host a “task party.” This idea is based on a term coined by conceptual artist Oliver Herring. Let children think outside the box by having each student (a) write down a creative task, like “Write a poem about snails” or “Fold paper into a new shape”; (b) place their written task in a bucket; and (c) draw a different written task out of the bucket. Students can practice making connections and thinking creatively by completing the selected tasks in a given amount of time.
  • Combine maker activities and STEM lessons. This can help students create and invent while learning STEM fundamentals. If you want the rundown on creating a makerspace, Y4Y has a Click & Go to help you out!

Plant the seeds of creativity and watch the STEMs (and your students) grow!