According to a 2008 study of employers and school administrators (Ready to Innovate) companies are increasingly looking for workers who can brainstorm, problem-solve, collaborate creatively, and contribute/communicate new ideas. Often STEM is misinterpreted as the individual silos of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. One reason STEM education has become a priority in recent years is STEM teaching learning helps students develop the skills of creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication students need to adapt to our ever-changing world and effectively compete in a global society.
Many STEM programs (also known as STEAM programs) use the arts as a vehicle for supporting learning of these important thinking skills. According to Anna Feldman, “With STEAM, the pressure is off to become a scientist or engineer—you can be a designer, digital artist, coder, art director, and scientist and engineer all at the same time. STEAM says we can be better engineers by learning how to think artistically, and we can re-engage artists with science by letting them see how STEM can work in the arts.”
Ways to Integrate the Arts into our Classrooms
Integrating the arts into your STEM classrooms does not have to be difficult. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Use a story from literature (language arts) or history (liberal arts) as a starting point for a STEM exploration. For example, the Story of Princess Dido from Virgil’s Aeneid may be used to launch an investigation into maximizing area for a fixed perimeter. Princess Dido was given as much land as she could enclose with an ox skin. The clever princess cut the skin into thin strips and was able to enclose over 60 acres with her one ox hide!
Use science, technology, and mathematics skills combined with visual arts to design solutions to engineering problems. For example, students might design candy boxes that fit given constraints for volume and surface area. They use their visual arts skills to decorate their boxes to be visually appealing on the store shelf, and may even create video presentations to convince company executives why their design is the best choice.
Connect drama and STEM by having students act out problems. For example, students might design machines and demonstrate them for the class using their drama skills. Or mathematics students might act out mathematics problems to develop understanding of new concepts.
Apply Good Practice
To ensure that the arts component enriches and not distracts from the learning consider these practices:
Utilize rubrics for assessing the creative components as well as students’ understanding of the concepts of the curriculum you teach.
Implement formative assessment strategies throughout the project/lesson to include questioning, feedback, peer assessment and student self-assessment.
Conduct formal and informal check points to see if students are progressing at an adequate pace and then make adjustments as needed.
Tips to Enhance Your Success
Don’t go it alone.
Collaborate with the related arts teachers in your building. Seek ways to support each other’s curriculum. For example, social studies, identify and analyze the art and music in different cultures and periods of history.
Gain inspiration and ideas from local visual, performing, and graphic artists.
Invite architects, civil engineers, and landscapers to talk about how they connect your content area and the arts in their work.
Integrating the arts into our STEM classrooms helps students develop creativity, collaboration skills, communication skills, and critical thinking.
For more examples on how to integrate the arts into STEM classrooms visit ARTSEDGE the Kennedy Center's free digital learning platform for arts education.
What other strategies have you found effective for integrating arts into your STEM classroom? Visit the article link on our Facebook page and share your ideas.