As America’s secondary schools drop further behind other developed nations in the area of science, technology, engineering and math, many experts have suggested ideas to bring America back to the forefront. One of those ideas is a novel approach to STEM education, namely, the blending of the arts with the teaching of the scientific disciplines.

Although it has some fierce critics, the idea of blending the arts with STEM education shouldn’t be all that controversial. After all, many STEM disciplines are a form of art. And almost every mathematician will tell you that half of what they do is an art form. Nowhere is the connection between STEM and art more obvious than in the many subfields of engineering. Fields like aeronautical engineering often seek to maximize not only structural integrity and efficiency of performance but also aesthetic beauty. But the two fields of engineering where the artistic component is, perhaps, most clear are in architecture and automotive engineering. Someone aspiring to greatness in these latter two fields simply cannot advance to a high level without having a great artistic and aesthetic sense. And most of the greatest automotive and architectural designs are known as much for their beauty as for their performance.

So, the combination of the arts with STEM education is a far more natural marriage than it may, at first, seem. But the expert educators who advocate for increasing levels of art elements within STEM education have a few more concrete reasons why adding in a little art is not a bad idea.

First, approaching STEM education through the arts can lead students to think about the underlying STEM concepts in ways and on a level not otherwise likely to occur. This can happen when considering artwork that is based on physical phenomena, prompting the student to ask questions about what liberties the artist has taken in producing the work and what elements of the work are faithful reproductions of the natural phenomenon.

Another reason for incorporating the arts into STEM education is that it can provide a much more potent and personal motivation for learning. Students whose interest in certain areas of STEM is piqued by a transcendent work of art may be far likelier to pursue dedicated investigation to the underlying ideas on their own accord.