Hollywood Is STEAMed About Science Education

Actor Tim Daly is a big supporter of efforts to improve math and science in U.S. schools. But he hates how advocates have labeled their cause.

"The acronym STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) blows," says Daly, who participated in a lunch-time rally today for the upcoming National Lab Day on 12 May as co-chair of the Creative Coalition, a nonprofit organization that lobbies for the arts community. "Everybody thinks you're talking about stem cells. It should be STEAM. It's not only a better acronym, but it will enhance what they are doing."

The collaboration between science educators and Hollywood was brokered by serial entrepreneur and former neuroscientist Jack Hidary, organizer of a national initiative launched last fall to bring working scientists, engineers, and other technology workers into the schools. Hidary said National Lab Day, actually a yearlong series of events involving hundreds of organizations that work on science education, has already spread to more than 1000 schools in every state toward a goal of reaching 10 million students in 5 years.

Daly was joined at the luncheon by a collection of celebrities that included Adrian Grenier of the HBO series Entourage; Richard Schiff, who played a top White House aide in The West Wing; and Dana Delany of Desperate Housewives, who had come to town to lobby for increased federal support for the arts. They shared the podium with the real stars, local teachers who had made science a priority in their schools.

National Lab Day officials love having Hollywood on their side. But some wonder if STEAM is the way to go. "I agree that arts are important, and I think that STEM is a terrible acronym. But is STEAM better? I don't know," says one organizer.

What do you think?