Voyager began our STEAM integration several years ago. For a short background—-We are a school with grades 6-8. We have a very diverse population, and we have 75 percent free and reduced.
For awhile now Voyager has slowly merged science and some math with visual art. This added a hands on component mainly to 8th grade science. The move from STEM to STEAM was impactful for students to synthesize science and math concepts and make new brain connections thru art. Students with visual skills were targeted enhancing science units.
1. First, it took time to build momentum
Our program began with a couple of teachers thinking in small end of the year projects. We started to carve out time to create science projects based on cells during planning time. At first it took a short amount of time durning the week to plan cost, design, create pre-work concepts. Then when we met in a larger group of students to work on the large TOTALLY CELLULAR project. This took place at the end of 2014. I think this was the most successful and impacted the most students.
2. Second, The importance of Collaboration
We notice 2013 the success of collaboration on integrated art projects. We started to carve out time to meet as a larger group this is when created a school wide STEAM PLC. This is where the larger collaboration began. Our PLC is growing while other PLC groups are shrinking. Collaboration this year (2015) has so far resulted in Mr. Anderson’s Saturday field trip to the Maker Faire at the EMP.
3. Third, Keeping flexible schedules
It is never easy and always possible for STEM and art links to occur at the same point during the school year, and that’s OK. Instead, teachers should be upfront with students. It is important to tell them how art will be linking up during the year (even if it is a small project.) During this year the 7th grade will be working with astronomy and we plan on creating the solar system sculpture installation from plexiglass. We will be installing it in the hallway for entire school to see. This will create motivation for students in both art and science in the 7th grade.
4. Fourth, Building a deeper understanding
This year we also in the early stages of creating a tinker lab for all students to use. Students need hands on projects. Such projects reach students who do not have an opportunity to have these experiences at home, they reach ELL students who need the opportunity to speak English, and IEP students who feel successful in art. Success to build, create and design in the name of science and math.