Arts Integration Graphic

Don’t Ghettoize the Arts: Blend them with STEM

In the real world, science, technology, engineering, math and the arts complement each other. Take a look at any number of aesthetic and well-engineered household objects, such as Crest Standup Squeeze Dispenser Toothpaste, Post-it® Super Sticky Notes, the Thermos Nissan Intak Hydration Water Bottle with Meter, or Under Armour’s Storm Swacket. Our favorite objects blend art and science.

Unfortunately, our emphasis on STEM (education in the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and math) has ghettoized the arts. As a result, we’ve witnessed a backlash to STEM in the form of STEAM (integrating science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math), which has steadily gained purchase in more progressive education spheres because of its well-documented benefits:

STEAM Benefits

  • STEAM provides an entry point into STEM for underrepresented students.

Because “STE(A)M job creation will grow 17% over the next decade as opposed to just 9.8% for non-STE(A)M positions,” a STEAM-based curriculum will help develop creative capacity among learners to advance the 21st century economy.

Here are several inspiring ways that teachers are blending the arts with other disciplines:

1. Dance and math - In one of her preschool lessons, teaching artist Amanda Layten directs learners to “roll dice and balance on the number they rolled.”

2. Dance and science - Science teacher Stacey Burke integrates dance into her curriculum at Bates Middle school through task cards that direct students to demonstrate the concepts of revolution and rotation with their bodies.

3. Music and math - Espie Estrella, a music education expert, recommends using math jingles or clapping symphonies to teach fractions.

4. Art and science - Examples of how instructors integrate these two disciplines is especially rich:​

  • Kim Haynes, a K-12 teacher and freelance writer, directs students to make collages that represent concepts, such as a “biological life cycle.
  • Meanwhile, Bates Middle School, in Annapolis, teaches velocity and acceleration in 8th grade science by having students reflect on paintings that depict battling ships being fired upon by cannons.
  • Elementary teacher Antoinette Pippin asks her students to collaboratively analyze the balance of an ecosystem through an examination of Bernard Palissy’s 1550 “Oval Basin” earthenware that features “live-casted” creatures preserved in a glaze. Leaners look at both the balance of the artistic placement of animals with the balance of the depicted 1550 habitat. “The students are getting a lot more science and scientific thinking through studying art,” says Pippin, who likes how there is no “wrong or right answers—just better justified answers. And that is the same for art and science.”

If we need a final reason to support arts instruction, here’s a good one: STEM teaches us how to build a bomb. The arts teach us why we shouldn’t.

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Todd Finley

Edutopia Blogger and Asst. Editor || ECU Ed Professor || Founder of Todd's Brain at www.todd-finley.com || Books: Dinkytown Braves and Rethinking Classroom Design.

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