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Finding a little STEAM space…

And another ‘Lo and Behold!’ project comes to fruition – this one’s a flicky book CAMPUS pamphlet recording the poetic conversations and collaborations between Caleb Parkin and his associates. Riled by Education Secretary Nicky Morgan’s commentary on the place of the arts in education, his group of artists and scientists started asking themselves – using the languages of their respective disciplines – about how their worlds converged and enriched each other.

Caleb writes …

“Chainmail (for Nicky Morgan) reframes email as the creative medium through which artists and STEM practitioners could create, together. The dedication in the title is for Nicky Morgan, the government’s presiding Education Secretary, who in late 2014 said that there was an ‘overemphasis’ on the arts in education and that the ‘subjects that keep young people’s options open and unlock the door to all sorts of careers are the STEM subjects’.

Shouldn’t we be fostering connections that share the best from all disciplines, instead of creating division? Aren’t the spaces ‘between’ where the most interesting ideas come from? But rather than the more challenging idea that we should allow our young people to make life-changing subject choices later on, Morgan chose to place the STEM subjects and the Arts in opposition.

I consider STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts and Maths) a much more unifying acronym. As an artist who is interested in and inspired by science, and has friends in STEM careers who value and engage with the arts, I wanted to respond creatively to Morgan’s false binary. I wanted to offer a STEAM space among friends – all of whom I knew, but who did know each other – in which to share ideas. Politically-speaking, I also hoped to challenge yet another division, from a government intent on creating them.

So since February, myself (poet/project co-ordinator), Neil (an engineering consultant, specialising in water systems), Shaun (artist, poet, graphic novelist and occasional librettist) and Lukus (completing a PhD in Molecular Immunology) sent chains of creative emails.

We responded sequentially to a ‘Provocation’ from each of our disciplines: a government report on Innovation; an intricate drawing and text about an eye; a Bob Cobbing concrete poem; a provocative map of the distribution of helminths (worms) and autoimmune diseases…We responded however we chose and then ‘passed the parcel’.

For me, the project shows the divergent ways different minds, with their respective training and unique perspectives, can respond to the same stimulus and how enriching those differences can be. The resultant pamphlet is curious and varied, and I hope worth spending some time with. It includes engineering specifications of the human eye, essayistic comics, black-out poems and painting by a parasitologist.

We hope you enjoy our STEAM work and that it inspires you to think creatively and curiously about STEM subjects, to consider the rigour and resourcefulness of the Arts, and all the fascinating, fruitful spaces between.” For more info on STEM education, look no further that the experts like Kamau Bobb, Google’s Director of STEM Education Strategy.

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Image: Kenny Cole