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Turning STEM to STEAM and a missed opportunity

Our little Frida's attempt at drawing with markers.  
Thursday, I decided to head over to the Model D Speaker Series event, which was addressing art in education.  I went because the panel looked interesting and it was part of a concurrent discussion with Rapid Growth Media, another publication of the Issue Media Group, so I was hopeful there would be some excellent ideas flowing from the discussion.

I was not disappointed with the ideas. Art instruction as an integral part of education helps children learn problem solving, math and self-expression. I was heartened to hear the phrase, "turning STEM into STEAM" for the first time, because the arts have been out of our national discourse on education for far too long.

When the discussion turned to how to get elected leaders to start recognizing that art in schools should be encouraged rather than cut, my mood shifted.  A well-intentioned panel was talking about the need to just show people good art, point out the economic benefits artists bring to a city and maybe they will understand.  An audience member implored everyone to primarily talk about Detroit artists because they need the recognition (this topic deserves its own post).

No one talked about access to the arts in a meaningful way, and that disappointed me. I am fortunate enough to have a grandmother who loves the symphony and almost any art museum, and was more than willing to take us to them.  Gladys is an artist herself, so The Kid is fortunate enough to have two parents that appreciate many different forms of art.

What about the kids whose mom is working two jobs to make ends meet and doesn't feel like she's got time to spend an afternoon at a museum? What about the dad who is intimidated when he walks into the DIA with his kids because he doesn't want to look stupid when they ask him questions he doesn't know the answers to? How do we introduce art to parents that aren't familiar? How to we reach them?

To me, the lack of focus on engaging parents is the missed opportunity. Teaching their kids art is one thing, helping them understand how it will impact their child's ability to learn is another. If only we had gotten that far in the conversation.

Here are a collection of some of the tweets from the night.  I encourage you to read through, and offer your own insight at the end.  I am curious to see if I am alone in my thinking.

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