Sierra College STEM Collaborative Releases Literature Review: Should Art Be Added to STEM?

Karen Fraser-Middleton
Innovation Showcase

To gain insight on how educators can better prepare students for advanced manufacturing and STEM careers, the Sierra College Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM) Collaborative engaged Elizabeth Dayton, Ph.D., to conduct a literature review on the value of adding the arts to STEM, making it STEAM. The resulting white paper, Exploring STEAM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (Dayton, 2014), is now available on the Sierra School Works website.

Requests from manufacturing advisory committee members for graduates who are innovative and critical thinkers led Sierra College to conduct the research on the role of art in STEM education, explained Carol Pepper-Kittredge, CACT Director, Sierra College Center for Applied Competitive Technologies (CACT). 

"In addition to developing STEM skills, students must know how they can be applied in innovative ways to improve products, solve problems and meet changing customer demand," said Pepper-Kittredge. "To fill the skills gap identified by businesses, the Sierra STEM Collaborative became interested in art as a vehicle to inspire design thinking and create a pipeline of students in the Sacramento region prepared for work in technical fields, especially advanced manufacturing."

Dayton's review considers a wide range of research on the impact art can have on students. "There is striking evidence of the demand for more creativity and innovation in the American economy" (p. 2), writes Dayton (2014). "Both in looking backward to STEM successes in recent history, and in looking forward to what educators and employers see ahead, a convincing case can be made for the value of arts and innovation alongside strong STEM education" (p. 3).

Since 2008, Sierra College has supported projects that both inspire and prepare students for advanced manufacturing careers, explained Pepper-Kittredge. "Sierra College as well as Placer and Nevada County middle and high schools participating in the Sierra STEM Collaborative have had success in integrating curriculum, such as math and welding, to develop students' skills," said Pepper-Kittredge. "Based on this report, adding an art component could enrich students' educational experience and enable them to develop skills they'll need during their careers."

"We've also seen through our partnership with Sacramento Hacker Lab that collaboration among artists, designers, manufacturers and engineers results in innovation and entrepreneurship," said Pepper-Kittredge. "This report by Elizabeth Dayton has reinforced our interest in encouraging the integration of art with science, technology, engineering and math education. Adding an art strand will enhance students' knowledge and better prepare them for highly paid technical careers with manufacturers and technology companies in Northern California."


Dayton, E. (2014). Exploring STEAM: Science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics. Rocklin, CA: Sierra College STEM Collaborative.

Karen Fraser-Middleton is president of Marketing Action, Inc., and began working with the Sierra College CACT in 2003. Her role has included strategic planning, project management, and communication.

Opinions expressed in Innovation Showcase are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the League for Innovation in the Community College.