STEAM (re)framed Manifesto by Victoria Vesna

Los Angeles, 2023

STEM, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, originated as a political and educational initiative to address perceived deficiencies in these fields and to bolster competitiveness and innovation in the workforce. Stemming from concerns about economic competitiveness and national security, STEM education emphasized technical skills and knowledge deemed crucial for technological advancement and industrial growth.

However, the emphasis on STEM fields neglected the broader aspects of human creativity, expression, and cultural understanding. As a response to these concerns, the "A" for arts was added to the framework, expanding it to STEAM. This addition of was an afterthought even though the integral role of arts and humanities in fosters creativity, critical thinking, and interdisciplinary collaboration.

The integration of arts into STEM education has long been recognized to enrich student engagement, foster critical thinking, and promote a more holistic approach to learning. However, despite its potential benefits, arts education often finds itself overshadowed within the STEM framework. While science and technology dominate on one side, engineering, and mathematics command attention on the other, leaving arts education in a precarious position within academia.

Recognizing the need for a more balanced and inclusive educational paradigm, the STEAM framework proposes a reframing that replaces engineering with ecology and mathematics with mindfulness. This shift acknowledges that engineering and mathematics are inherently embedded within the realms of science and technology, while emphasizing the urgent relevance of ecology and mindfulness to both art and science disciplines.

In today's world, grappling with pressing issues such as climate change, conflict, and food insecurity, the inclusion of ecology and mindfulness in education is more pertinent than ever. Ecology underscores the interconnectedness of living systems and the importance of sustainability, while mindfulness promotes self-awareness, empathy, and ethical decision-making.

By embracing this expanded STEAM framework, educators can cultivate a more comprehensive understanding of the complex challenges facing society and empower students to become thoughtful, socially responsible agents of change. This reframing not only underscores the importance of ecological sustainability and well-being but also emphasizes the ethical considerations inherent in education and societal progress.

Redefining STEAM as Science, Technology, Ecology, Art, and Mindfulness reflects a growing awareness of the need for a holistic approach to education and problem-solving. Here's a brief exploration of each element in this revised framework:

1. Science: This remains a core component of the framework, representing the systematic study of the natural world and the processes within it. It emphasizes observation, experimentation, and evidence-based inquiry. Move beyond the physical, materialistic world view, create new methodologies in collaboration with the arts and humanities.

2. Technology: Technology encompasses the tools, techniques, and processes that humans use to manipulate the environment and achieve specific goals. It includes both digital and analog technologies and highlights the importance of innovation and problem-solving in modern society. Move beyond the mechanistic, equipment-based mode to include ancient and indigenous methodologies

3. Ecology: Ecology emphasizes the interconnectedness of living organisms with each other and their environment. By including ecology in the framework, there's a heightened focus on understanding and preserving ecosystems, promoting sustainability, and addressing environmental challenges such as climate change and biodiversity loss. Move to considering comprehensive, inclusive ecologies from micro to macro.

4. Art: Art fosters creativity, expression, and aesthetic appreciation. It plays a crucial role in STEAM by encouraging interdisciplinary thinking, visual communication, and imaginative approaches to problem-solving. Art also serves as a means of reflecting on and responding to social and environmental issues. Move beyond individualistic egotistical to ecotistical, expansive views of art that is not separate from science.

5. Mindfulness: Mindfulness involves paying attention to the present moment with openness, curiosity, and acceptance. Integrating mindfulness into the STEAM framework promotes self-awareness, emotional regulation, and empathy. It also cultivates a deeper connection to oneself, others, and the natural world, fostering a sense of responsibility and stewardship. Take the time to stop and think about science, technology, ecology, arts, mindfulness = ALL is interconnected

By incorporating ecology and mindfulness into the STEAM framework, we recognize the importance of ecological literacy, sustainability, and holistic well-being in education and society. This revised framework encourages students to think critically, creatively, and ethically about the complex challenges facing the world today, empowering them to become informed and engaged global citizens.