< Back

Celebrating Literature in STEM Education


Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? poet Mary Oliver

Many people think that NMSI is only focused on math and science, especially considering that NMSI stands for the “National Math and Science Initiative.”

Don’t get us wrong – we’re all about STEM. We also know courses like AP English can equip students with the skills and dispositions to succeed in STEM fields. The ability to communicate ideas and analyze text are critical in any field. Taking it a step further, students who are well-versed in English Language Arts often show greater innovation and creativity in STEM courses.

That’s why, in addition to STEM, we offer supports for English in our College Readiness Program and Laying the Foundation.

For World Poetry Day, we’re zeroing in on the importance of poetry (in and out of the classroom) with quotes from some of our favorite poets and literary critics. Just as STEM provides the backbone for college readiness, poetry can provide, as literary critic Kenneth Burke put it, “equipment for living.”

According to the Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education, benefits of engaging in the arts are “enhanced learning of scientific concepts, building technical skills that are underserved in the curriculum, and enhancing students’ mastery of design and cross-disciplinary collaboration.”

What that means —English courses develop students’ strengths in critically reading, analyzing and responding to all texts, including charts and graphs, scientific articles and in-depth publications. Experts say literature courses are as critical to students’ success in high school science as the amount of science knowledge they possess. Moreover, literacy builds student self-efficacy, self-understanding, curiosity and a greater knowledge of the world.

“NMSI partners with teachers and schools to provide rigorous ELA experiences that build all students’ capacity as readers and writers, and thus as scientists, technicians, engineers and mathematicians,” says Ashley LaGrassa, NMSI Manager of ELA Program Design.

We think NMSI AP Physics teacher Jose Sandoval from Chicago brings it all together:

“When you’re concerned about how things work and the details that go into it, you’re able to see things on a deeper level than other people, and you can turn into a great poet,” Sandoval says.

“The more you study STEM, you’re able to have a complex mind to appreciate poetry.”

Language, the arts and STEM are inextricably connected. As Mr. Sandoval says, “Shakespeare doesn’t seem as hard to you if you study physics.”