Pittsburgh – November 5, 2015 – At the request of state Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa, the Senate Democratic Policy Committee today held a roundtable discussion in Pittsburgh on integrating arts education into science and technology curricula.

“Mixing arts into science and math instruction adds balance and inspires a creative approach that has produced significant scientific and technological advances over the years,” Costa said. “I hope we can find ways to strengthen science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) pursuits by integrating arts instruction.”

Senator Lisa M. Boscola (D-Northampton/Lehigh), who chairs the committee, added, “Artistic and creative thinking have gone hand and hand with many of the greatest technological advances in human history. Arts add creativity, balance and a very human purpose and passion to technological pursuits.”

The lawmakers noted that the arts can be used as a diverse multi-disciplinary learning tool, and provides greater access to the STEM fields for all types of learners.

State Secretary of Labor and Industry Kathy Manderino emphasized that the Wolf Administration’s focus on “sustainable workforce development doesn’t start after education. It starts with education.”

Dr. Michael Self, Dean of Academic Affairs at the Community College of Allegheny County, added that discussions about integrating arts are “critical toward providing students additional pathways from education to a good job.” He also urged that schools work more toward educating students and parents about the value of arts as an educational component.

Shaun Tomaszewski, who serves as STEAM coordinator for the Pittsburgh Public Schools, told the panel of lawmakers that educators and administrators need to overcome “practical hurdles” such as integrating arts principles into science and math instruction, but also work on issues such as accrediting courses, meshing the instruction with curriculum and graduation requirements and certifying STEAM teachers as the program expands into more high schools.

Boscola said employers, such as the University of Pittsburgh’s Medical Center, are hiring more and more artistic people with backgrounds in visual communication and design to work with clinicians and software experts on innovative and broad-based solutions.

Pointing to a Georgetown study showing that 65 percent of those with Bachelors’ degrees in STEM fields earn more than Master’s degrees in non-STEM occupations, Costa said he understands why more and more students are pursuing science and high-tech degrees. However, he added that integrating an arts component could strengthen and diversify capability and add a creative approach to solving problems.

Boscola added that exposure to the arts “strengthens a student’s creativity, broadens their horizons, and instills the ability and courage to think out of the box. Our educational leaders should never lose sight of the indelible link between artistic expression and scientific advancement.”

Joining Costa and Boscola for today’s roundtable discussion at the IBEW training facility were Sens. Wayne Fontana (D-Allegheny), John Blake (D-Lackawanna), and Sean Wiley (D-Erie).

The following also took part in the discussion:

  • Kathy Manderino, Secretary of the state Department of Labor and Industry
  • Dr. David Pankratz, Research & Policy Director, Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council
  • Alan Johnson, Superintendent, Woodland Hills School District
  • Alison Kline, Principal, Woodland Hills Intermediate Center
  • Dr. Michael Self, Dean of Academic Affairs, Community College of Allegheny County
  • Ms. Theresa Bryant, Vice President of Workforce Development, Community College of Allegheny County
  • Jessica Trybus, CEO, SimCoach Games, and Special Faculty at the Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) of CMU
  • Paul Reinert, Training Director, IBEW Local Union No. 5 Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee
  • Shaun Tomaszewski, Coordinator of STEAM Education, Pittsburgh Public Schools
  • Alex Halper, Director, Government Affairs, PA Chamber of Business and Industry
  • Ramera Powell, 8th grade student, Woodland Hills Academy
  • Venneasha Davis, teacher, Woodland Hills Academy

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