Conversations about STEAM, both in New Jersey and throughout the United States, are frequently taking place in educational circles.
STEAM — an acronym that has become synonymous with learning in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math — is regarded by many as a worthwhile and impactful approach to learning. As with other issues related to the arts in education, New Jersey continues to make positive inroads with this topic. With educational leaders throughout the state publicly recognizing the value of STEAM learning, the support and infrastructure for hands-on, interdisciplinary learning experiences continues to grow.
Click on this link to view a video from EdCamp STEAM, a professional development event held at the Linwood Middle School in North Brunswick.
One way to think about STEAM is through the lens of arts integration: the application of one or more arts disciplines enabling students to make deep and meaningful connections with concepts in Science, Technology, Engineering or Math. For those already familiar with the long tradition of arts integration there is probably little surprise that the STEAM model has captured the attention of educators and educational leaders. With STEAM learning responsible for many positive outcomes, there seems to be just cause for the recognition it receives these days. As an instructional model, arts integration has been regarded as highly effective for decades.
Countless examples of STEAM learning take place throughout New Jersey. The New Jersey Arts Education Partnership looks for stories and details about the inspired STEAM projects practitioners develop. For example, GE Wilson Elementary in Hamilton was featured on NJTV’s Classroom Close-up recently, with a highlight on the school’s interactive murals.
The time spent creating the artwork is not only highly engaging for students, but once complete, the murals become artifacts that teachers employ to reinforce other subjects. One of the murals at GE Wilson is used to help students better understand the lifecycle of plants, while another is used as a teaching tool in 3rd grade math classes. Large-scale group projects like these represent one approach to STEAM learning.
Other STEAM projects increase students’ exposure to cultural resources in the community. This was the case on March 7, when a reception was held at the Paterson Museum in Paterson featuring a student STEAM Art Exhibition. The event was a remarkable opportunity to showcase students’ artistic accomplishments, as well as the significant learning that has taken place. The artwork resulted from cross-disciplinary learning, which was supported by William Paterson University’s Professor In Residence STEAM initiative.
Last fall, during the New Jersey School Boards Association conference there was a session devoted to a multi-year STEAM project in Beach Haven. Details about the project can be found on a blog that documents the process; a process that stretched beyond the walls of the school building. For example, in order to write an original script that would culminate in a student performance at a local theater, the young playwrights sought input from members of the community who had lived through two epic storms: one in 1962 and the other in 2012. Students engaged in the project were learning about science through the lens of island ecology.
These examples, and myriad others taking place throughout New Jersey, demonstrate the how the process of learning and the learning environment are both enlivened and expanded through STEAM. Fortunately, with support received from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, STEAM programs like those in Paterson, Beach Haven, and other communities can continue to thrive.
Do you have a favorite example of STEAM learning you would like to share? If so, we would love to hear about it.
Please visit the New Jersey Arts Education Partnership Facebook page and post videos or photos with a short description of the project…or projects. If you have a blog that features examples of student work, feel free to include that, too. Let’s try to collect the most shining examples of STEAM stories from the Garden State.
Kira Campo is the Program Development Manager at the New Jersey Arts Education Partnership (NJAEP).
The NJAEP was established in 2007 to provide a unified voice for a diverse group of constituents who agree on the educational benefits and impact of the arts, specifically the contribution they make to student achievement and a civilized, sustainable society.
For additional details about the NJAEP, visit www.artsednj.org.