This chapter takes up the feminist new materialist concepts of “diffraction” and “intra-action” as ways of thinking about children’s embodied and imaginative knowledge through, and in relation to, aspects of the world that can be classified as the non-human. It employs these new materialist frames of “diffraction” and “intra-action” to show how art/science intra-act through “quiet activism” in children’s art. It argues that this work can be considered a vernacular form of STEAM education that radically re-situates, and indeed deconstructs, forms of science education proposed through outcomes-based curriculum, and extends children’s sense of themselves as entangled in their environment. The data theorised in this chapter is drawn from findings from a multi-sited ethnographic project that runs in 13 sites in 6 cities. This ongoing empirical project utilises art as a research method in primary school classrooms and informal educational settings, ostensibly to explore issues of social value and community belonging. However, across the last three years working in the UK and Australia, children, unprompted, have returned repeatedly to concerns about the environment, climate change and pollution. The children are so enmeshed in their broader environment that some draw self-portraits of themselves as landscapes. The arts-making practices reported here have led children to create speculative and imaginative scientific inventions that were designed to respond to the now inevitable effects of climate change and that merge art and science in unexpected ways. In developing the concept of quiet activism as an inherently interdisciplinary art/science (STEAM) method of environmental and art education, this chapter argues for an intra-active and diffractive, interdisciplinary and speculative model of embodied pedagogy. Children’s creative, quiet activism teaches us interdisciplinarity in dynamic and applied ways.
The National Science Foundation conceived the term STEM with an emphasis on the links between economic prosperity and knowledge-intensive jobs that are dependent on science and technology. As such, traditionally STEM subject initiatives have aligned with and facilitated a largely economic conceptualisation of human and social development. It seems likely that the wellbeing crisis that we are experiencing in the West is linked to this. This is compounded by the rising influence of technology which has facilitated what is sometimes called the indoorisation of children, and the raised levels of parental concern about safety. From this follows an associated sense of disenfranchisement for children, with consequences for their wellbeing and happiness.
This chapter begins with an overview of the impact of STEM on wellbeing, arguing that a focus on human development after Sen and Nussbaum is a more holistic approach to understanding wellbeing. In this understanding, wellbeing arises from an entanglement of threads representing the different elements of an individual’s life, such as their physical health, their social networks, their access to wild, natural and outdoor spaces, and so forth. This chapter focuses specifically on this access to wild, natural and outdoor spaces (using the arts and arts-based research to mediate this access) to consider how the capability approach provides a foundation for a broadly conceived notion of wellbeing that incorporates environmental sustainability, social justice and future economic wellbeing. Nussbaum’s list of capabilities is used as a framework with which to analyse focus group data from artists working with the arts-based charity Cambridge Curiosity and Imagination (CCI). The chapter concludes by considering how working with artists as co-researchers and how the co-development of artwork between children and artists might expose a more holistic understanding of the entangled roles of art and wild/natural/outdoor spaces in the wellbeing of young people. In so doing the chapter adds to conceptualisations of childhoodnature which seek to demonstrate that children and nature are inextricably linked through shared characteristics such as freedom and a non-linear view of time.
This chapter explores STEAM from a transdisciplinary perspective where sense/ory experiences are made explicit in the process of teaching and learning. In dialogue with John Dewey’s last complete work, Art as Experience, possibilities of engaging a wider array of sensuous perceptions in the interface between sciences and arts are explored. Two innovative teaching activities are described and discussed where taste (ambiguity intended) and acts of tasting play key roles. Theory and research-based knowledge is sought put to work, thus shedding light on possibilities and challenges for teaching of, and through, inquiry in the interface between subject domains with distinct practices and epistemologies. Through rich descriptions, looking closely and paying attention to details and specifics, simplistic and overly optimistic descriptions of STEAM initiatives are sought avoided. Departure is taken from some major challenges in science and STEM education, ultimately seeking to open a space where some challenges in arts education may also be met. Finally, challenges, frictions and the possible transformative power of such integration for the respective subjects is discussed.
This chapter explores the origins of the movement from STEM to STEAM, with a view to troubling the epistemological assumptions that underpin what at first appears to be a progressive project. STEAM appears to challenge traditional educational modalities (such as clear divisions between disciplines) in order to provide a broader canvas for human enquiry. It attempts to “value add” arts to STEM, yet this very concept of value adding epitomises the economic imperative that pervades contemporary educational discourse, and which has also been a key driver of the movement from STEM to STEAM. The main aim of this chapter is to develop a more nuanced understanding of the interrelationship between the arts and sciences, drawing on Bruno Latour among others. Reconceptualising the interrelationship between sciences and the arts has the potential to enrich our understanding of science, revitalise our teaching and make us open to new ways to respond to environmental challenges. What is required in the contemporary era is not mere addition in the sense of “value adding”. Rather, what we need now is a more progressive project that entails the re-entanglement and re-enchantment of the ethical, political, moral, aesthetic and scientific dimensions of human enquiry across disciplines and fields of inquiry.
Mathematics curriculums used in progressive classrooms of the United States and in classrooms of the People’s Republic of China presuppose markedly different philosophies. Xie and Carspecken reconstruct different assumptions operating implicitly within mathematics curriculums developed by the Ministry of Education in China and NCTM in the United States. Each curriculum is constructed upon a deep structure holistically integrating presuppositions about the nature of the human self, society, learning processes, language, concepts, human development, freedom, authority and the epistemology and ontology of mathematical knowledge. Xie and Carspecken next present an extended discussion of the two main philosophical traditions informing these curriculums: dialectical materialism in the case of the Chinese mathematics curriculum, and Dewey’s instrumental pragmatism in the case of NCTM. Both philosophies were developed as movements out of Hegelian idealism while retaining the anti-dualist and anti-empiricist insights of Hegel’s thought. The history of dialectical materialism and Dewey’s instrumentalism is carefully examined by the authors to identify both similarities and sharp differences in the resulting mature philosophies. Drawing upon more recent philosophies of intersubjectivity (Brandom, Habermas) and dialectical materialist psychologies (Vygotsky, Luria), the authors conclude this book with arguments for overcoming the limitations of a purely instrumentalist framework and for expanding potentialities implicit within dialectical philosophies. This book will be of value to a broad audience, including mathematics educators, philosophers, curriculum theorists, social theorists, and those who work in comparative education and learning science.