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STEM and Creativity: learning for the future

Updated: Jun 18, 2022

By Yasmin Silva Nilsson

February 20, 2022


[Photo Credit: The Index Project/Siemens Stiftung]

“It will be our imagination, our awareness, and our sense of responsibility that will enable us to harness the opportunities of the 21st century to shape the world for the better”. - Andreas Schleicher, researcher and education director at OECD

Social responsibility is currently a crucial thematic shaping business, policy, and technology actions. Such spheres now sit on top of a challenge: learn how to solve problems that they do not even know are problems, and educate the youth for jobs and technology that do not yet exist. Grounding these challenges, policies often have in their own nature a problem-solving quality, and by carrying the thought of how to address them, basic literacy in science and technology complemented with independent, creative, and innovative thinking skills are a decisive solution. By stimulating young people to seek interdisciplinarity, matching STEM and creativity in education, is a program with an absolute potential to engage them in the solutions everyone seeks for. In this sense, complementing the dominance of advocacy, the contribution between professional and social spheres is the perfect pinpoint to give the surge to such strategies.

Few teachers and policymakers are ready to take on this dual approach, often seen more of a paradox rather than praxis, because most people are used to having a single spike in creativity rather than a continuous experience of it. The point is that everyone is creative, but not everyone pursues creativity per se, and right here the proposal for change in education systems resides: implementing a much more holistic and universal approach to knowledge and thinking.

At American University in Washington D.C, a course that fulfills general graduation requirements is “Changing Views of the Universe”, directed to both STEM majors and non-majors. Its curriculum focuses on developing answers to scientific questions such as “what is light?” and The Scientific Revolution, as well as bridging this knowledge with lectures themed in philosophy, religion, and astrophysics. In order to fulfill one of its requisites, students developed an activity similar to a capstone project to express understanding of any of the topics tackled in the classroom – however, in a very flexible array of options. Their creative project could be in the form of a piece of artwork, a literary piece, a scientific model or machine, or something edible, and the scope of the students’ topics was incredibly vast in a research project conducted by professor Teresa L. Larkin.

By the end of the term, this class’s learning model proved itself effective by a high class average grading of 93%, a performance 10% higher than the one noticed on reading assignments. Consequently, the professor’s strategy in bringing the best of both worlds together is a sample of the greatness that this kind of learning policy can bring to student outcomes.

The astounding demand for creative, innovative thinkers in the STEAM workforce progresses on the opposite side of the road when it comes to conventional education – scientists are far from only being concerned with hard facts, data, Excel sheets, and jars filled with green chemicals, just as creativity is far from restricted to the arts.


T. L. Larkin, "Creativity in STEM education: Reshaping the creative project," 2015 International Conference on Interactive Collaborative Learning (ICL), 2015, pp. 1184-1189, doi: 10.1109/ICL.2015.7318203.


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