Traditional and contemporary routes to excellence

Biss Puxi offers an opportunity for students to apply their learning in the subjects of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths.

We are celebrating the official opening of our STEAM center at the British International School Shanghai this month.

It offers an opportunity for our students to apply their learning in the subjects of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths in projects that are focused on solving real-life problems. This approach to learning is held by many of the leading global education philosophers as a prerequisite to human kind successfully navigating the next century. In that sense it combines the finest of traditional learning, what used to be called the 3Rs (reading, writing and arithmetic), with a very contemporary focus on the skills of lateral thinking and problem solving that the world so badly needs nowadays. 

However, the very nature of our humanity demands that we are more than just problem solving machines. There is buried deep within us a desire to enjoy our life, to “smell the roses,” to appreciate the artistic as much as the functional. This need for the aesthetic element of design surrounds us, from the curve in your smartphone casing to the span of a suspension bridge, swirl of a logo or pattern on a cupcake. STEAM is no different, and in fact, earlier forms of this approach to learning were just called STEM. The insertion of Arts into STEM subjects took place to ensure that creativity informed and influenced design and in so doing to make products more aligned with human aesthetics and ergonomics. For this reason, our new MIT-inspired Hamilton Centre exists alongside our traditional Art facility, forming a wonderful confluence of STEM and Artistry as contemporary and traditional learning opportunities co-exist in the same space.

Traditional and contemporary routes to excellence

An IB Art exhibition entitled “:levels”

However, as essential as a collaborative approach is to the nurture of lateral thinking, this can only take place when the essentials of core competencies are in place. Each individual subject in STEAM must be thoroughly understood and rigorously honed if a student is to be able to use it in an applied project. For this reason, at the British International School Shanghai, individual specialism remains a key feature of our students’ learning journey. 

One example of this is our recently opened IB Art exhibition entitled “:levels.” The range of media and work on show is quite staggering, with students interpreting their geographical location alongside exploring the work and themes of key artists, to make their own unique statements of the modern condition. Walking around the canvases and sculptures, one is immediately struck by the way in which these 18-year-old students are able to influence emotions and to give pause for thought, simply through the medium of imagery, of form, shape and space. 

For some, art is seen as an extravagance, almost a folly in a world which has concrete and human problems that so desperately need solving. Yet, time spent lost in the world of artistic creation on show in this exhibition demands that the viewer regards the world in a different way, from a different perspective, which could, ultimately, yield a new view of our world: a world in which Art has a formative influence in the future hope of technological innovation. 

(The story is contributed by Dr Neil Hopkin FRSA, principal of the British International School Shanghai, Puxi.)

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