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Back in the day when many of us were in school, Iowa was number one in the nation in education. Today, we are at least number three.

At that time the basics for education were reading, writing and arithmetic - the three Rs. Over the years, school districts have changed the way things are taught. For example, do students learn phonics or not? For some students, that was a problem because they did not know how to sound out a word; it affected spelling, too. If students cannot read they cannot do much of anything, they get frustrated and they misbehave. The way math was taught when I was in school was different than how it's taught today. Over the years, more subjects and activities have been added, as well.

To their credit, educators are always looking for ways to improve what students are learning and how. They are passionate about what they do and they have the student's best interest at heart. In my opinion, it is important to educate the whole person and give students all the tools they need to be successful.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds is a promoter of STEM. I do not disagree with her, but I feel it's important to include the arts. Am I an expert? No. I am speaking from experience as a former educator and what I see today as an employer. For example, employees in my business who are good in math, drawing and communicating are highly successful, no matter what they do for me. To do a great job installing a roof or siding, math and being able to draw are important. Salespeople need to posses the skills of math, design and communication.

Today, I want to focus on STEM vs STEAM: Science Technology Engineering Math vs Science Technology Engineering Arts Math.

A major reason for focusing on STEM is due to shortages we see in the fields of science and engineering. On the other hand, we see shortages in the trades, as well, which use math, science, engineering and art. Visual arts are just as important as the other forms of art.

The role of arts is significant. Being able to design is important and communicating a design or idea is necessary. The arts play a part in the student learning to communicate and create their idea as to how their product should look. Developing only half of a brain is like building only half of a car or half of a robot.

According to a January 2015 article in Edudemic, a study done by the University of Florida showed educating only half of the brain is not good enough, meaning an education that only teaches the right or left side of the brain is not sufficient. The research further showed that, on average, students who study the arts for four years in high school score 98 points higher on their SATs compared to those who study the same for a half year or less. Students who took music appreciation scored 61 points higher on verbal and 42 points higher on math.

The arts, whether it is dance, music, or visual, help students build confidence. As an educator in the early to mid-1970s, I saw students I had in theater and speech classes begin to succeed and they came out of their "shells." Furthermore, music is based on numbers; some students do not realize they are using math when playing music.

The arts help develop the whole brain. Dance can help a student hone their motor skills. I remember my mother had me take ballet for that very reason. I grew fast and was a little on the awkward side when it came to motor skills. Dance improved my posture, as well.

Over the years, athletes have credited dance for helping them be better, more agile and coordinated.

Educators do not dismiss art, but some feel art is naturally a part of STEM. Based on my own experience growing up and being a former educator, I do not believe that is sufficient enough. It's like the old saying - out of sight, out of mind.

Next week: Al Sturgeon

Charese Yanney of Sioux City is owner and managing partner of Guarantee Roofing, Siding and Insulation Co. She serves on the Iowa Department of Transportation Commission, the Iowa Economic Development Authority Vision Iowa board, the Missouri River Historical Development board and the Siouxland Initiative Executive Committee.


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