Putting the Agriculture in STEAM

FarmlandRemember our post on putting the A in STEAM? If not, here’s a quick refresher. When you discuss increasing emphasis on any subject area of school, whether that be English, social studies, or as in this case, STEM, a debate is inevitably sparked about what that really means.

Subjects can feel left out that one is prioritized over another, and it’s all spurred by a concern about whether or not we’re doing what’s best for the kids, teachers, and the country.

In this case, there’s been discussion about whether or not an increase in education in the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and math) should also include an “A”- for arts. Do manufacturing and/or technology companies look for kids who can think creatively, write, read and imagine well?

Writer and executive John Tarnoff put the question best when he said that he needs “to hire technologists who know how to collaborate in teams, express themselves coherently, engagingly, and persuasively understand how to take and apply constructive criticism and how to tell a good story…I find them taking art classes to understand how color and light really work. I find them in writing classes learning how to express themselves.” If that’s not evidence for keeping art classes in a STEM-oriented education, we’re not sure what is.

But lately, particularly for Nebraskans, other questions have arisen about whether or not it’s necessary to have STEM vs STEAM education– but in this scenario, the A doesn’t stand for Arts. It stands for Agriculture.

In a state where agriculture is one of the main sources of income, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is stepping forward to emphasize agricultural literacy and science as a vital part of an education in Nebraska. Vice Chancellor for the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Ronnie Greene, says that their new National Agriculture Literacy Center at UNL aims to do just that: “A, as in agriculture, needs to be an important part of that [STEAM]” Green told the Journal Star.

The center was launched last summer, and so far, faculty members have already started developing lesson plans and instructional materials for teachers throughout the entire United States. Cory Forbes, center director, said that “we want to provide content science teachers can use in their classes to teach biology, chemistry, or other sciences through an ag or natural resources lens.”

If you’re a teacher interested in learning more about how to work with this problem, this summer, the center will hold a pilot program that will pair UNL researches with current and future high school teachers to work together to create instructional material. High school teachers will also help work with research taking place in the field of natural resources and agriculture that’s currently happening.

What do you think? Do you think agriculture, arts, or both are important to pair with a STEM education? Leave a comment in the section below, and let us know!

photo credit: Aberdalgie Lane. via photopin (license)