Friday, July 25, 2014

S.T.E.M.: Focus on the Arts?

In recent years there has been a great amount of focus placed on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (S.T.E.M.).  In an effort to keep pace with a global economy, educators from preschools through higher education have increased learning opportunities that place emphasis on S.T.E.M. 

Map making in DCM's Creativity Studio
Also at the forefront of educational circles is S.T.E.A.M., or adding the arts to the emphasis that is currently placed on science and mathematical literacy. Research shows that the arts support crucial developmental skills in creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication (National Endowment for the Arts Longitudinal Study results, 2012). The arts can also be a powerful way to approach math and science learning for children who don’t show great interest in S.T.E.M. concepts otherwise.

In the early years children can be encouraged to use dance to learn about spatial relationships and geometry. Dance is movement and a constant creation of shape not only in circles and curves, but also in straight and pointed lines in relation to bodies as they move through a space.

Science concepts, such as light and shadow, can be added to math learning and dance.  Children can be encouraged to watch how movements change the shapes and lines of their bodies as the sun shines behind them.  

To the tune of Five Fat Sausages and other number-oriented songs; music, movement and counting have gone hand-in-hand for many years. In addition, chanting patterns like tap, clap, snap or even sorting objects as songs are sung can reinforce mathematical concepts for young children. 

S.T.E.A.M. education indicates that children can be offered concepts in math and science while developing additional complimentary skills enhanced through the arts. As we begin to see these connections, we can open our eyes to S.T.E.A.M.—its presence and value in how we engage learners.  

This blog post is also published in Positively Naperville, a printed guide of community events, volunteer opportunities and local lore. The publication is distributed to 35,000 homeowners by the first of every month.