The Importance of Early and Persistent Arts and Crafts Education for Future Scientists and Engineers

Prepared By Gabrielle Carels for sead

The Importance of Early and Persistent Arts and Crafts Education for Future Scientists and Engineers

Like Leonardo da Vinci and Galileo Galilei, modern-day innovators in science & engineering are usually artists and craftsmen as well. Understanding how arts & crafts enable innovation in sciences & engineering will enable society to develop the full potential of students in those fields.


K-12 curricula in most school systems focus on mathematical and verbal skills, but the ability to succeed in science and engineering requires a broader range of skills that can be, and often are, taught through arts and crafts. In ongoing studies we have found that many scientists and engineers are explicitly aware that they developed critical skills through their arts and crafts training (LaMore, et al., 2012; Root-Bernstein, et al., 2013). More than 80% of these scientists and engineers affirm, in fact, that arts and crafts education should be required as part of STEM education (LaMore, et al., 2012; Root-Bernstein, et al., 2013).

Indeed, the full range of thinking tools are best learned through arts and crafts experiences, whether these experiences are integrated into science instruction or not. Furthermore, there are specific associations between skill and art form, e.g., abstracting with abstract visual art; empathizing and playacting with theater arts; modeling with crafts and sculpture; crafts with manipulative skills, etc. (Root-Bernstein & Root-Bernstein, 1999). Given the importance of abstracting, empathizing, modeling and more to STEM professionals, arts and crafts can provide STEM students valuable training in the skills, knowledge and methods they will require to succeed.


Arts and crafts experience is highly correlated with STEM Success:

In our ongoing studies of scientists and engineers we have found that significant arts and crafts experience is highly correlated with professional success in science and engineering as measured by outcomes such as major prizes and honors, patents, or the founding of new high tech companies (Root-Bernstein, et al., 1995; Root-Bernstein & Root-Bernstein, 2004; Root-Bernstein, et al., 2008; Lamore, et al., 2012; Root-Bernstein, et al., 2013). 

One of the most notable results of our research is that no particular art or craft confers advantage over any other: dance, music, drama, painting, sculpting, printmaking, photography, making and composing music, metal- and woodwork are all correlated with increased probability of success. The operant factor is not the type of art or craft, but the early introduction to arts and crafts in elementary and middle school years followed by persistent practice of that art or craft into adulthood.

We have also found that while exposure to arts and crafts can occur in a school setting, formal education is not a requirement for the observed correlation to success: arts and crafts classes in school are often supplemented or replaced by private lessons, informal mentoring at home or in community centers, or even by self-teaching.  Again, the key element is not how an art or craft is learned, but how long it is pursued. Skill and knowledge transfer to science and technology arenas is, in short, most likely to occur as a result of arts and crafts mastery.


To read the full White Paper please visit: The Importance Of Early And Persistent Arts And Crafts Education For Future Scientists And Engineers


  • roger malina Dallas

    I never imagine that my referring to the web site on the need to contextual mathematics would launch this discussion on the root of all evil but paul and simon's responses have focused the discussion on the basic argument that the root bernstein's are making about the evidence that scientists and engineers work as better as scientists and engineers if they are also involve in arts and crafts in their early education this is the basic argument in the stem to steam argument the way we have organised education we put art and science in separate streams as if they were not fundamentally linked in human curiosity and imagination anecdote: in a discussion with someone responsible for programming in Marseille as the european city of culture- i got a response that " science is not part of culture' wow what he meant was that the minister of culture in france which was the lead ministry for the city of culture did not fund " science outreach or education" science is part of culture and children dont care which agency is funding what paul : of course there is a rational for pure math= but thats not the issue here=the issue is how in primary and secondary education we create a context=driven by student interest and imagination- we teaching in a way that motivates and captures the motivation of young children anecdote: in my undergraduate education i had the pleasure of taking a class on statistics and probability from the celebrated mathematician we certainly learned pure math -but what i remember is that all the math was continously contextualised in social contexts and applications ( gambling at las vegas. sociology. politics etc) i did great in that course but the next semester i took a course in mathematical logic and i got the first C grade as a student- it just didnt connect the arts and crafts are one way to powerfully contextualise science and mathematics and motivate students= and in addition the evidence that root bernsteins show is that the children that learn that way make better scientists and engineers roger The term "naked math" refers to mathematics without context. Mathematics > "within a context" usually refers to mathematical modeling -- that the > mathematics models or represents something in the real world. My point > was simply to rephrase this in terms of something that the Yasmin group > might find equally appalling (or not?): what is the art analogy of naked > math? It would probably fall into the general area of abstract art -- something > performed and executed that is not representational of the world, and so > is equally as "naked". -- Roger F Malina

    October 11, 2013 04:19 Flag

  • roger malina Dallas

    Colleagues-we welcome comments and questions: here are some seeds for sead discussion: DISCUSSION: STEM Educators How could these thinking skills and arts experiences be aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards or your local standards? What could you do in your school or classroom to integrate an arts experience and some of the thinking skills defined in the research? How could you partner with an arts specialist? Do you have an example of lesson that you consider a best practice at this intersection? Do you have data to substantiate its success?

    October 07, 2013 23:04 Flag


Prepared By Gabrielle Carels on behalf of SEAD

Acknowledgements & Credits

Authors: Robert Root-Bernstein, Michele Root-Bernstein

Coordinator: Robert Root-Bernstein


SEAD (Science, Engineering, Art and Design) Network Initiative

(under National Science Foundation Grant No.1142510)


White Papers Steering Committee

SEAD White Paper Curatorial Committee Chair: Roger Malina 

Committee; Carol LaFayette, Carol Strohecker, Lucinda Presley


Photo Design: (c) Robert Root-Bernstein


This paper is part of a 2012-2013 SEAD network initiative to identify opportunities and challenges for research and creative work integrating disciplines of sciences, engineering, arts and design. White Papers were first posted at This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1142510, Collaborative Research: EAGER: Network for Science, Engineering, Arts and Design (NSEAD) IIS, Human Centered Computing. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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