Artistry and Creativity in STEM


As I write my first blog entry for SAS State and Local Government, I thought it would be prudent to provide a little personal background. I grew up in a family of artists- with 5 musicians, 2 painters, 1 sculptor, 1 dancer, and 1 composer. I studied business, became a high school teacher, and now work for a top business analytics company specializing in STEM- science, technology, engineering, and math- quite a pendulum swing from what my parents had dreamed for me! As a student I always felt that I had to choose one of two paths: the arts or STEM. I wish that I, and other students, would have understood how much the two work in tandem. With hindsight being 20/20, I now see the elegance and beauty within scientific innovation.

This point was well represented in last Sunday’s CNN’s special, "Education in America: Don't Fail Me." Journalist Soledad O’Brien followed 3 high school students from differing socioeconomic backgrounds in AZ, TN, and NJ as they set out to win a robotics competition. Students had to write computer code and fabricate 2 robots that participated in very physical challenges. I do not believe that it merely takes science and math skills to accomplish such a feat. There is as much creativity in inventing and building a computerized robot as there is composing a symphony. CNN cites that American students currently rank 17th in science and 25th in math when compared to other industrialized nations. If we are to regain our spot as a global education and industry leader we need today’s students to be able to synthesize information from a myriad of sources and use it to innovate, invent, and produce. America's future is at stake. "If we don't generate the next group of innovators, scientists, engineers, and problem solvers," inventor Dean Kamen warns in the CNN video, "our standard of living, our quality of life, our security, will plummet!"

While this CNN special inspired me by illustrating the heart, passion, and creativity of the three students, the inequity of academic opportunities they were provided in their respective states was disheartening and downright wrong. These students all push themselves to achieve the most from their high school experience, earning straight A’s while participating in the band, sports, and other extracurricular activities. However, 2 of the 3 are not being challenged with Honors and Advanced Placement math and science courses because they are not offered. They, therefore, may not be ready to compete in college and the workforce. Due to the lack of standardization across states, top ranking students in their schools, districts, or states may not be truly “college-ready.” With the national push for new Common Core Standards, I hope students across our 50 states will soon have equal opportunity.

I am proud of the decades of work SAS has accomplished in education. Particularly, EVAAS for K-12 provides individual student projections to various academic milestones such as Advanced Placement exam scores, ACT scores, SAT scores, college-readiness, and STEM major readiness. Five districts in North Carolina are now using the EVAAS student projection reports to place students into 8th grade algebra, which is widely accepted as the “gateway course” to higher-level math and science success. SAS is working to ensure that more school systems use these Student Projection reports to show students their probability of success and to encourage them (and their parents) to enroll in more rigorous course offerings.

Lastly, I hope that all parents and educators begin to encourage our right-brained, artistic children to continually challenge themselves with upper-level STEM courses. Why not prepare them with the knowledge and skills that they can use in a variety of industries and grant them admission to some of our top universities? We do not want to stifle growth or opportunity by pigeonholing students into one path. There is an important place for both the arts and STEM to work in concert to propel students, and our nation, into 21st Century success.

What are your best examples of how art and creativity are incorporated into STEM projects?

What success stories have you seen where students successfully leverage their ability in the arts and STEM to advance their careers?


About Author

Nadja Young

Senior Manager, Education Consulting

Hi, I’m Nadja Young. I’m a wife and mother of two who loves to dance, cook, and travel. As SAS’ Senior Manager for Education Industry Consulting, I strive to help education agencies turn data into actionable information to better serve children and families. I aim to bridge the gaps between analysts, practitioners, and policy makers to put data to better use to improve student outcomes. Prior to joining SAS, I spent seven years as a high school Career and Technical Education teacher certified by the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards. I taught in Colorado’s Douglas County School District, in North Carolina’s Wake County Public School System, and contracted with the NC Department of Public Instruction to write curriculum and assessments. I’m thrilled to be able to combine my Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing Management and Master of Arts degree in Secondary Education to improve schools across the country.

1 Comment

  1. Melinda Walker on

    The Institute for Emerging Issues has been working on building a more creative culture in North Carolina for a couple years now, and a key component of that is infusing creativity into cirricula. IEI's report New Thinking, New Jobs makes it clear creativity is necessary for the jobs of the future, and we need to prepare students for that reality.

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