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STEAM – What’s the “A” All About?
STEAM education underscores the connectivity of all curricula concepts by integrating the “arts”.  The (A) arts may include liberal arts, fine arts, music, design-thinking, and language arts and when used intentionally in instruction can infuse innovation and creativity into problem-solving and collaborative work. During the 2018-19 school year, I launched the initiative of transitioning our school from a STEM to a STEAM focus. In the initial stages of this project, I primarily concentrated on bringing the concepts of STEM into the Related Arts classroom, starting with my music room.
First Steps Towards Integration
Traditionally, music classrooms provide high quality experiences, such as instrumental and vocal performance and musical analysis and theory. With this knowlege, I identified natural areas of integration and decided to connect science, music, and technology. To gain a deeper understanding of the science curriculum, I collaborated with the fourth-grade science teachers to explore instructional units on the Forms of Energy---Light and Sound. Additionally, I examined music concepts students studied previously, such as form, tempo, and rhythm.
Through a grant, S2TEM Centers SC provided the seed funding that activated our shift towards STEAM in the music classroom. The grant funds purchased Pioneer DJ Controllers and the accompanying Serato DJ Software. These technology tools provided a hands-on way for the students to visually see the sound waves they had studied in science. Connecting to their prior knowledge, students increased their understanding of musical concepts enabling them to manipulate, remix, and sample music.
As the initiative evolved, elements of Project-Based Learning (PBL) fused with the learning already occurring in the classroom. Students collaborated with their peers and with knowledgeable experts beyond the school. With remixes and playlists created, students shared their knowledge with professional DJs and sound engineers in person and via Skype. The students presented their work, received feedback, and discovered what it is like to use their skills in a professional setting.
Student Growth & Response
Throughout this initiative, the level of student engagement grew greatly.  Students collaborated on musical decisions and troubleshooting of technology issues. Creativity blossomed as students who previously lacked confidence in their ability to perform on traditional instruments, now freely shared their mixes with peers.  Students express how this project has positively impacted their learning. Here are some examples:
Sandra, Fourth Grade- “[...] creativity can shine through music in many ways. It allowed us to make music on our own and communicate with each other through music.”
Leyton, Fourth Grade-”The DJ Unit taught me a lot about music. I learned that I love music and I want to pursue it as a career. This project was very different than other classes because we learned from other people in the real world.”
Moving Forward
This initiative is only beginning at North Springs Elementary. You may be wondering how to foster a STEAM mindset in your school. Here are some tips.
  • Initiate dialogue:  Communication is key when it comes to integration. Be purposeful in planning time with colleagues. Explore each other’s standards. Discuss what is upcoming in unit plans. Cross-curricular planning starts when teachers are aware of what is going on outside their own classrooms.
  •  Expand your knowledge of STEAM:  Check out STEAM professional learning opportunities.  Don’t be afraid to embrace new learning.
  • Seek resources to help integrate STEAM into the classroom:  STEAM Integration began in my classroom with a grant from the S2TEM Centers SC. I was able to expand my resources after connecting with music professionals and the R2 Innovates Initiative through Richland School District 2. As I discovered more projects I wished to incorporate, I connected with other teachers interested in STEAM to see what materials we could collectively share.
  • Take the first step:  This is the most important tip.  Every journey begins with step # 1. Your efforts will grow, and your students will reap the benefits of more meaningful learning.
Good luck to you in your journey!
AM Project
New Music National Standards
ISTE Standards
R2 Innovates







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