WAMC, the terrific public radio station which created 51%, has done a series of special features on STEM which were supported by the National Science Foundation. STEM, if you don't know, stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. They're areas where the US is losing ground and subjects which many girls still avoid like the plague. Their reasons may be cultural, or attributable to the messages they get from their families or teachers. But the field is poorer for their absence.
WAMC's features ranged from women in STEM today to women who've made history in STEM. There is a series on programs to encourage girls and women with disabilities to pursue careers in STEM and intimate discussions with women working in STEM about their professional experiences.
But I recently interviewed Robin Bronk, head of The Creative Coalition, about the crisis in funding for the arts in education. And she said something that made me look at the STEM question in a new way.
The Creative Coalition is an organization of artists who advocate for the arts. Bronk said it's a non-partisan group, carefully avoiding the right and left and focusing strictly on the importance of maintaining the arts.
"Everyone talks about STEM,' she told me. "But, really, it should be STEAM – Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics. Because the arts inform every other discipline and have been proven to improve students' performance in other areas.'
From their website: One quarter of all school principals report decreased instructional time for the arts, with only eight percent reporting an increase, according to the Council for Basic Education. The percentage of students involved in music is now at its lowest point in 20 years, declining from 18.5 percent of the total student population to just 10 percent.
Studies have shown students who study the arts are more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, be elected to class office, and score higher on the SAT. They are less likely to be involved with drugs and students who were in band or orchestra reported the lowest lifetime and current use of all substances.
Then I spoke with Bettina Martin. She's a 3D Engineer from Germany currently working in Hollywood, training the pros how to shoot in 3D. She started out working with computers, then transitioned into the brave new world of 3D movies, now working with 3ality Technica, a firm that's one of the heavy hitters in 3D. At first, Martin said the firm created post-production equipment for 3D, simply because they felt there wasn't any that met their standards. Now the company is focused on the camera technology and she's convinced that the 3D we're seeing now is just the ground floor of what is possible. Technology, she says, is changing every day.
But I wanted to know something else.
"Is it fun?' I asked her.
Her voice warmed and I could hear her smile all the way across the country.
"It is the most fun I could possibly imagine! I'm working in a field that's evolving so quickly that we have to run to keep up. I'm meeting all kinds of people, visiting all kinds of places. It's SO much fun!'
And that, young girls, is why you should consider STEAM for your career. Not because someone says you should. Not because you might make a lot of money. But because there's a real possibility that you're going to discover something you absolutely love to do.
That is what work is supposed to be about.
To hear these interviews, visit the 51% website at www.wamc.org/prog-51.html. Look for shows 1161 and 1162.
BACK TO "BEHIND THE STORIES" MAIN PAGE
Barnett is the producer and host of 51%
The Women’s Perspective,
a weekly women’s issues radio show carried nationally on NPR,
ABC and Armed Forces Radio stations. 51% The Women’s Perspective
is part of WAMC
- Northeast Public Radio's national productions. "The View From Outside," Susan Barnett's new collection of short fiction, is available in eBook format at Amazon and Barnes and Noble through Hen House Press. You can connect with her on Facebook.
Photo by DB Leonard.