SchoolArts Magazine

September 2015

SchoolArts is a national art education magazine committed to promoting excellence, advocacy, and professional support for educators in the visual arts since 1901.

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T he idea of moving from STEM to STEAM is a hot topic in education right now. It car- ries a bit of the same energy w e see during a highly anticipated fashion line launch. What will it look like? How far does it push the current status quo? Will it go too far, or will it still honor the traditional classic elements? Unlike the latest fashion trends that come and go, however, STEAM can be the foundation for valuing the creative mindset in twenty-first century education. And it doesn't need to be difficult. Teaching in and through the STEAM approach is a natural by-product of what we do in the artroom every single day. What Is STEAM? STEAM is an educational approach to learning that uses Science, Technol- ogy, Engineering, the Arts, and Math- ematics as access points for guiding student inquiry, dialogue, and critical thinking. There are many definitions of STEAM out there, but this one works well for both art and classroom educators. Thinking about STEAM as an approach is important—it's not a curriculum or a mandate. It's a way to teach the content. The key lies in what we do when integrating these areas. It's easy for art educators to say, "I already do that in my class - room!" While that may be true, how d o you demonstrate it? The STEAM A D V O C A C Y Is STEAM the Next Supermodel? process can help you clearly refine what you're already doing and get even more incredible work from your students. Try using the following process the next time you want to connect art with science, technology, engineering, or math: Investigate In this stage, you and your students can explore a broad range of examples on a topic in both art and the other content area you'd like to connect. For instance, you may explore fulcrums in science when studying Alexander Calder. It's not enough to assume that we are getting our students to be critical thinkers through responding to and creating art, so it's important to ask these questions throughout your les- sons: • H ow do you know that? • What makes you say that? • Why did you make that choice? • What questions pointed you in that direction? • C an you share more about that? Discover and Connect Notice where students struggle and what their answers to your questions reveal. Can they already explain how a fulcrum works? Are they stuck or inspired by the connection between "balance" in art versus science? Begin to connect the dots between student interest and student challenge. Think about how you can use your lesson to both honor the artistic medium and use the other content area as a pathway to creation. If you're unsure of the details about the other content area, this is the perfect oppor- tunity to connect with other teachers in your building. Susan M. Riley Teaching in and through the STEAM approach is a natural b -product of what we do in the artroom ever single da . These radial designs from Kendra Farrell's students combine math and science concepts of radial symmetry and color theory with creativity and originality—a perfect example of a STEAM lesson. Create and Reflect Now that you've front-loaded the work in your lesson, the time has come for students to create and reflect on their own artwork. You can use the same questions from the investi- gation stage at this point. As always, the real benefit to STEAM and any other approach that utilizes the arts lies in the process. The end result is always a reflection of the process and skills that the artist used. No STEAM or arts integration approach can work unless students have a capacity in the arts area being used for integration. That being said, why not teach your skills and pro- cesses while making an intentional connection to one of the STEM areas? You may just provide the model that the rest of your school needs. Susan Riley is an arts integration special- ist and founder of EducationCloset.com. W E B L I N K educationcloset.com/steam 8 SEPTEMBER 2015 SchoolArts

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