SchoolArts Magazine

October 2016

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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Page 18 of 66

Eric Gibbons STEAM: Not All Smoke and Mirrors S T E A M S TEAM—the fairly new buzz-acronym that stands for science, technology, engineering, arts, and math- ematics—recognizes that art can be the glue of a good integrated program. Some schools advocate STEM, erroneously thinking that art is somehow not part of the larger equation. Some art educators hear the term "STEAM" and groan or bemoan new initiatives, lessons, curriculum, and meth- ods, when instead they should be cheering! The unavoid- able fact about STEAM is that art teachers have been using it long before it was ever a term or recognized for its strength. You can't make a grid, tessellation, or clay form without touching on geometry. You can't mix colors with- out experiencing chemistry and physics. It's why kids who have art outscore their peers on standardized tests. You don't need new lessons; the core connections are already there in your lessons, waiting to be teased out. Shifting into Gear I would liken STEAM, in most artrooms, to a manual shift car. You can get from point A to point B in first gear and beat anyone who walks or runs to your destination. Art does this naturally. We triumph over our colleagues with deeper, multisensory learning with a high degree of creative problem-solving. But there are higher gears avail- able that take a bit of coordination to use. You don't always have to use them. It's fun to cruise slowly with the win- dows open, but using higher gears—more integration—can be fun and offer new experiences. To get into second or third gear, you could take the time to bring out a prism when you talk about color and light. You could draw from observation using microscopes. You could do more pre- and post-writing, or reflect for a few minutes on a famous quote about art once a week. By adding open- ended writing or even a research paper annually, students can experience extensive cross-curricular content in your Porsche. I do these things, and encourage my peers to do them as well. The results have been pretty amazing and have saved my department. They take but a few minutes during my introductions or closures and can be done at any level. STEAM for Any Level Though I teach at the high-school level, this can be done at all levels from kindergarten up. If you do drawings of snowmen, why not talk about snowflakes, crystals, water molecules, temperature, or some other simple factoid that will enrich what you are doing? Any animal-based unit can include a bit of information about biomes, countries of origin, endangered species, domesticated versus wild animals, and so forth. These are small and simple modifi- cations that can be made at any level without detriment to your program and little impact on your time. STEAM for Success Every once in a while, I ask the guidance department to check how my art students do on their major state assess- ment. As a high-school teacher, I focus on the SAT. In 2013, my students scored 155 points higher on average than their peers. Any positive results like this need to be shared with your administration and board of education— it is the best way you can advocate for yourself. When administrators see the numbers and figures, they begin to understand how awesome you really are. For me, The unavoidable fact about STEAM is that art teachers have been using it long before it was ever a term or recognized for its strength. CONTINUED ON PAGE 53. 14 OCTOBER 2016 SchoolArts

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