How This Woman of Color is Bringing Art and STEM Together
Samiksha Bindra is the owner of one Mad Science® and one Crayola® Imagine Arts Academy™ franchise location in Colorado. Since starting out in 2012 as a Mad Science franchisee, she has developed a passion for educating future generations in STEM. She became a Crayola® Imagine Arts Academy™ franchisee in 2017 after discovering that art is a necessary component in STEAM education.
The Importance of Art in STEM
I believe that STEM and art go hand-in-hand to make each other work, thus making STEAM an extremely important focus for today’s youth. You need some creativity when you want to be innovative in STEM, and you need some calculation and knowledge of science to be successful with art. We know that most people are either “right-brained” or “left-brained,” meaning that one side of their brain is dominant. If you are mostly analytical and methodical in your thinking, you are said to be left-brained. If you tend to be more creative or artistic, you are thought to be right-brained. However, just because you’re one or the other does not mean you are limited to being only analytical or creative. Both components must come together in order to fully understand a variety of scientific and artistic concepts, and I am on a mission to do just that.
Prior to becoming a franchisee, I actually had STEM-related work experience as an engineer. I was asked to help Mad Science for 15 days with operations as “vacation work”, and one day an instructor couldn’t make it due to a flat tire so the scheduling manager suggested that I take over because of my background in engineering. I took over the class and instantly fell in love with it. The kids did not want me to leave and I felt that the time flew by because I was having so much fun. This opportunity made me realize I wanted to pursue a more fun and meaningful career at Mad Science. I was motivated by the kids’ eyes growing wide while learning about science and conducting experiments with me. I have a real passion for what I do and want to share the magic of Mad Science and Crayola® Imagine Arts Academy™. Art programs are usually the first thing to be cut when schools are looking to save money or adapt the budget, so I place importance on not only STEM, but art as well.
Making Education Fun
I fully understand both science and art subjects requires creativity and it’s important that we encourage children to use their imaginations to solve any problems that they may encounter. We want to inspire children to dream big through unique experiences that broaden their horizons by helping them understand real-world topics such as cultural diversity and wildlife conservation.
Because creativity is necessary to comprehend real-world topics, it’s crucial that I teach more than simple concepts such as drawing. One of my favorite projects that I’ve led at my Crayola® Imagine Arts Academy™ location, which is a great example of how art aids STEM education, is having the children design a future city. This activity applies critical thinking, important decision-making, and cultural awareness, all of which are beneficial to building their confidence and problem-solving skills. Additionally, these projects set children up for a lifetime of success and learning because once they start a task, they are determined to finish it. This demonstration of commitment and responsibility is something that is not actively being taught in most schools, making it unique to Crayola® Imagine Arts Academy™.
Being a Woman of Color in Franchising
I place a high importance on cultural diversity and awareness, this being because I am a woman of color. It is definitely a challenge not only being a woman in franchising but a woman of color at that. There are many obstacles I’ve had to overcome to get to where I am now. Not only is it hard to come by women in business leadership roles, but women in STEM are few and far between as well. The number of women in board positions in STEM-related industries in 2020 was 19.2%. I enjoy being a woman of color in franchising, especially STEM, because I can show young girls who may look like me that they can be a business owner, have a career in STEM, or even do both. I take what I do very seriously, especially considering that their parents entrust me to teach them something of substance and that they can take with them for the rest of their lives.
STEM has always been my passion, but I want to also make it a passion for another little girls out there, especially ones of color. Women of color represent 14.1% of U.S. bachelor’s degree recipients across STEM fields. 11.5% of people employed in STEM fields were women of color, making up approximately one-third of all women in these fields. I want to see that number grow even larger and to see more women of color in the STEM field.
There is a clear need to make STEAM education more accessible. Science and tech fields are currently dominated by Caucasian and Asian males. On college campuses, African American and Latino students make up less than 20% of those studying in science- or math-based disciplines. On the job, however, minorities make up less than five percent of the STEM-based workforce, according to 2012 statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor.
Minorities in underserved or struggling school districts are at risk of being left behind, which is a scenario that has far-reaching economic consequences for the United States. Unlike their more affluent counterparts, students who live in underserved communities typically lack access to what are now considered STEM basics: up-to-date laboratories, laptop or tablet computers, and access to the Internet. Additionally, their art programs may be cut to save money for other resources, so having an enrichment program like Crayola® Imagine Arts Academy™ can help them to continue using and building their creativity that will aid their STEAM education and give them an opportunity to explore career paths that would not have otherwise been offered.
What is next for me is to start giving back to my communities by opening another Crayola® Imagine Arts Academy in an underserved and underprivileged area. I hope to continue inspiring children to pursue careers in STEAM by bringing another location to these underserved communities of Colorado.