Building STEAM

My-Heart-Is-Like-a-ZooSTEAM – Teaching The STEM Disciplines Through Art

“Across the country, teachers and administrators are coming to a similar conclusion: art informs science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and vice versa. Consequently, they are pioneering new methods of teaching that combine disciplines which have been isolated from one another under traditional educational models.”

Last month, US News hopped on the STEAM train and featured this piece about using art to teach the STEM disciplines. This is a teacher’s dream come true – a vision of an integrated curriculum, at last!

Even politicians from various states (and political parties) are promoting STEAM in schools, espousing the benefits of integrating the arts into the traditional STEM model.

Representative Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) says, “The way we get an innovative workforce is to make sure that we have creative and critical thinkers coming through our schools … Incorporating art into STEM disciplines is a way to cultivate the minds needed for the knowledge economy.”

Representative Aaron Shock (R-Ill.) states, “Collaboration, trial and error, divergent thinking skills, dynamic problem solving, and perseverance are all skills that are fostered by the arts and can be brought to bear to improve STEM learning … Arts education and integration are essential to producing a future workforce with the skills employers are looking for.”

So what does teaching the STEM disciplines through art look like in an early childhood classroom? The options are aplenty, but one straightforward way to incorporate science and math in what could be viewed as simply an art activity is through a book extension. For example, My Heart is Like a Zoo by Michael Hall provides an excellent opportunity to combine math, science, literacy and art. Children as young as four love this activity!

The teacher first reads the story to the class, discussing (on an appropriate developmental level) the author’s use of similes (“My heart is like a zoo, eager as a beaver, steady as a yak, hopeful as a hungry heron fishing for a snack”). Following the read aloud students and teachers discuss individual animals’ traits and behaviors outlined in the story (science). To incorporate math, the teacher asks students to notice what shape each of the animals are made of (the author uses various size and color hearts to depict the animals) and discuss his use of the shape throughout the book. Next, to infuse art and creative thinking into the lesson, the teacher gives each student an assortment of hearts in various colors and sizes and asks students to create an animal with them that could describe how their hearts feel. Lastly, the teacher dictates the students’ words and similes on their artwork. In one lesson, the teacher has infused three of the five STEAM disciplines and encouraged critical thinking and problem solving amongst his or her students.

Read the full US News article here:

Authored by Jordan Khadam-Hir, Rice University School Literacy and Culture

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