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STEAM vs STEM…why the Arts are so Important

STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics. STEAM is the cornerstone of the educational programming for the Grand Forks Children’s Museum’s exhibits. STEAM evolved from STEM – which is STEAM without the Arts.


So, why was Art added to STEM to make STEAM? And why do we at the Grand Forks

Children’s Museum think the addition of ART is critical to our STEAM educational foundation?


Art -in all its forms- recognizes and embraces the critical importance of imagination, creativity, problem solving and self-expression to enhance our scientific and technological knowledge and understanding. Art isn’t separate from, or counter-intuitive to science and technology. Art contributes immensely to innovation, originality, thinking skills and process advancement, and is an integral part of human development, experience, and intellectual and emotional growth.


Here is why…

  • While STEM focuses on analytical thinking and technical skills, art adds emotional intelligence and creative thinking. The result is a more holistic and encompassing educational process and outcome.

  • Art inspires innovation. Creative minds often produce groundbreaking ideas that drive technological advancements. Artists’ visual thinking and out-of-the-box solutions complement STEM  and drive innovative and user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing  product advancements.

  • Art inspires and uplifts the soul. Exposure to art improves mental health and overall well-being. Think of the last time you went to a concert or studied a picture and let yourself be totally encompassed? Did your emotions improve? Were you happier as a result?

  • Art becomes a language for children who struggle with verbal expression. It allows them to convey emotions, thoughts, and experiences. When children create art, they process their feelings and gain insights into their own inner world. Group art projects teach teamwork, reliance, and cooperation. 

  • Art integrates seamlessly with other subjects. Visual arts enhance reading comprehension and mathematical understanding. Diagrams, charts, and info-graphics are all forms of visual communication. Recognizing patterns in art sharpens pattern recognition skills, which are essential for mathematical problem-solving. Art bridges the gap between concrete and abstract ideas. Geometric shapes in art help children visualize mathematical abstractions.

  • For life skills, art nurtures innovative thinking, which is valuable in any field. Artists learn to adapt and find solutions when faced with challenges and limitations. Artistic problem-solving skills transfer to real-life challenges. 

  • STEAM acknowledges that a balanced education includes both logical and emotional aspects. There are obviously scientific and technological solutions, and when the underlying principles of art are added, the result is usually a more well-rounded solution.

  • The arts serve practical purposes beyond aesthetics. It can be functional, such as architecture or design, or it can be used for therapeutic purposes, such as in art therapy.

Art comes in all shapes and forms…music, cinema, theater, literature, architecture, video

arts, photography, puppetry, decorative arts (some of the most artistic people I know, create the most beautiful quilts), drawing, print making, sculpture, puppetry, drawing and painting. Learning to play an instrument is a form of art…drawing with chalk on the driveway is a form of art…taking photos of nature is a form of art.

The Grand Forks Children’s Museum is proud to partner with several local artistic endeavors:

  • Artwise – we are grateful for the role they play in the community and grateful to partner with them at community events.

  • Tom Brousseau and Friends Concert – this has become an annual fundraising event for the museum, but more importantly brings a wonderful array of musical talent and artistry to our community.  

  • Mrs. Robins and Airoso Music Academy – Mrs. Robins has that special and unique spark of creativity and is always ready to bring her magical musical skills to our community events. Her musical talents and creativity translate well to the area children.

  • Adam Kemp and Hanna – They bring their unique, original  and personal artistry to every event. They add color and dimension to our lives.

  • Grand Forks Quilters – Grateful for their time, talent, and treasure in teaching a time-honored tradition to many children in the area.

  • North Dakota Museum of Art- Grateful for their generous contribution of summer camp art for display during our Full Steam Ahead events.

  • Sacred Heart Elementary School Art Program-  Grateful for the contribution of art for Full Steam Ahead.

  • Muddy Waters-  Thank you for your support and involvement in Full Steam Ahead.

  • Hillary Kempenich- is an Anishinaabe artist, storyteller, and knowledge keeper who facilitates healing and opportunity through the arts. She is an agent of change who is passionate about making places such as libraries and museums more accessible. A recipient of the 2023 Bush Fellowship, Hillary is utilizing the time to gain knowledge and skills to guide this work. She seeks mentorship with fellow knowledge keepers to ensure cultural survival and visibility. Hillary is pursuing additional education in museum studies and STEAM.

The arts act as healing and unifying forces in our seemingly chaotic world. We live in a world of division, exclusion, and challenging times. We turn to the arts to find our past, our shared humanity, our connections and to embrace the intrinsic beauty surrounding us. The importance of the arts in our communities and worldwide cannot be underestimated. By embracing art, we enrich our understanding, our experiences and our humanity, contributing to personal growth.


The arts encompass much more than just beauty. While beauty is often a significant aspect of artistic expression, it's not the sole defining feature. The arts have the capacity to evoke a wide range of emotions, provoke thought, challenge perceptions, and serve as a means of communication and cultural expression.


The arts serve practical purposes beyond aesthetics. It can be functional, such as architecture or design, or it can be used for therapeutic purposes, such as in art therapy.


Art isn't just about creating pretty pictures, abstract sculptures, or music—it's a powerful force that shapes young minds and contributes to our overall development as a caring, nurturing, and productive society.


The integration of the arts is the driving force behind why the STEAM approach is a fitting choice for the Grand Forks Children’s Museum.

By Sally Miskavige, Grand Forks Children's Museum Board Vice President


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