These days, it seems that every day must have a purpose to celebrate. This week, we are celebrating something that we think could, pardon the pun, pick up STEAM.
Nov. 8 is nationally recognized as Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics (STEAM) Day because the abbreviation for this month and date cleverly spells out “Innovate” (N-O-V8).
Teaching children to be innovative is critical to their future in the workplace. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, STEAM jobs are growing at more than double the pace of the overall labor rate. Contributing to this rise are new technology, an aging population and global commerce. Many jobs are becoming obsolete. This trend has been going on for years, prompting schools across the country to create STEM programs. But now, many schools are adding the A for “Arts” to STEM in order to tap into the creativity, critical thinking and design aptitudes that are integral to art.
“Arts integration – the use of arts activities to deliver content – may help students form stronger memories and better retain what they have learned,” says The Summit’s Lower School Director Kendra Thornton Ed.D. A study called “The Effects of Arts Integration on Long-Term Retention of Academic Content” suggests that teachers integrate the arts into everyday instruction.
So, innovative educators are increasingly looking for ways to exercise both the cognitive functions of logic, science and mathematics in the left side of the brain and the creative right brain functions. (Read “Brain Made Simple” to understand the science behind this this better.) Many of the special reasoning skills needed for math are the same skills used in art.
At The Summit, Dr. Thornton is going all-out for STEAM Day. Teachers in grades one through four have planned hands-on activities to spur the imagination of their students.
“We want to get kids excited early and often about STEAM jobs,” says Dr. Thornton. “Our day will be filled with STEAM activities at every grade level combining music with math and art with science.”
For example, students will apply fundamental music principals of pitch, rhythm, scale degrees and intervals to explore math concepts like counting, fractions, sets, patterns and symmetry. In another exercise, students will create turkey rockets by decorating film canisters to look like turkeys and, using a chemical reaction with Alka-Seltzer tablets to make them blast off.
“We encourage innovative thinking and creativity when we offer children opportunities to experiment,” says Dr. Thornton.
Parents can get in on the act too. Dr. Thornton recommends that parents read “Picture This: Using Art To Explore Math (and Math to Create Art)” to understand why “STEAM” is important and to get fun ideas for bringing STEAM activities into their homes.
And while there’s a national day to celebrate innovation, Dr. Thornton says don’t think that N-O-V-8 is a once-and-done activity. She has renamed her computer lab the “Collaboratory” because the computer stations have been arranged for optimal collaboration. And she incorporated a STEAM mural in the décor. She and her teachers have STEAM activities planned throughout the year, including the use of a LEGO Lab on wheels and a STEAM Night on Feb. 8 when families can come to school to have fun together with STEAM-oriented activities.
--By Nancy Berlier
About the author
Nancy Berlier is the communications director at The Summit Country Day School. She is editor of The Summit magazine, a former education writer at The Cincinnati Post and former education editor at The Cincinnati Enquirer.
About the director
Kendra Thornton, Ed.D., is the Lower School director at The Summit Country Day School. She received her doctorate in education from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md., with a specialization in “Mind, Brain and Teaching.” A professional clinical counselor, Dr. Thornton has been published in professional journals and has been a presenter at national conferences.