This is why now, the most recent push is to go from STEM to STEAM (the "A" is for incorporating art). Of course I am all for this idea, since my biggest goal is blending math and creativity effectively, while retaining the mathematical rigor. I have pulled together a few ideas to help you get started in your own classroom.
WHY Add the "A"?
The NCBI tells us why it’s necessary to add the “A”. “While the demand for a strong STEM workforce continues to grow, there are challenges that threaten our ability to recruit, train, and retain such a workforce in a way that is effective and sustainable and fosters innovation. One way in which we are meeting this challenge is through the use of the arts in the training of scientists.”
Know that adding art into your lessons is not just for the fun of it, or to make your program look good. There is so much value you can add by incorporating art into your Science, Math, Engineering, or Technology curriculum.
Go here or here to read more facts about STEAM.
Incorporating the Arts
Here are some creative and engaging ways to incorporate art into your content in a PURPOSEFUL way. You do not have to worry about "sacrificing" precious instructional time by throwing in an art project just for the sake of doing art in class. Art class has infinite merits on its own, but these additions will fit right into your curriculum and offer an additional daily dose of art for your students!
1. Choice Boards / Project-Based Learning
If you are not already using choice boards in your classroom, you may want to give them a try. When you use project-based tasks, students have freedom to complete an activity or assessment in the way that best suits their individual learning preferences. When I create a choice board, I like to offer six options and allow students to choose three of the six to complete. Usually, most of the tasks involve some sort of art. Here are some sample ideas:
2. Photo Scrapbooks
My middle schoolers loved making the Geometry Scrapbook Project! I gave out a list of key terms (vertical angles, parallel lines, isosceles triangle...), and the students had to find each in the “real world”. They had to take photos and create a scrapbook!
There are plenty of other lessons where students can go on a real life scavenger hunt, as well. For example:
3. Graphic Design / Graphic Organizers in Your Content Area
Another fun idea is to have your students create their own visual representation of a concept, instead of passing out premade graphic organizers or study guides. They can develop a visual aid or infographic.
Check out this post for more about creating visual representations of key terms, or this post about infographics in the classroom.
4. Art-Based Assessment
A lot of classrooms already do this. If you have not done anything like this yet, try adding just one artistic assessment this year. Teachers have come up with great ideas over the years, from the typical 3-D cell model to a skeleton with all the bones labeled. Think about what unit in your curriculum could be assessed in a different way.
Maybe your genetics unit could have an alternative assessment in which students create a beautiful tree representing traits within a family.
Maybe your fractions unit could end with an artistic display where each student uses a material of their choosing (clay, paper, beads...) to represent three sets of equivalent fractions in different forms.
Remember that theater is an art as well! Can your class act out what they have learned? Get your own creative brain thinking and really take a look at your assessments.
5. An End Result to Display
Students love to create something beautiful if they know that you will display it for everyone to see (yes, even older kids)! My absolute favorites are giant constructions (using a compass and straightedge). This activity was such a motivator. I only taught constructions at the end of the year if there was enough time, and this truly motivated the kids to keep on pace all throughout the year. They were so excited to be one of the classes that got through everything and got to finish the last Geometry unit with the colored constructions they had seen in the hallway the previous year.
Students completed a series of constructions on a large sheet of paper and ended up with a beautiful design. I then allowed them to erase whatever lines they wanted and color their design. They were each unique and looked great on the bulletin boards, and thoroughly helped their geometry skills!
Another idea for a display-friendly activity in geometry is holiday ornaments made from polyhedron nets. Print out some nets for your students here. The students can decorate and then fold them to create 3-D ornaments. You can have them find volume and surface area as well.
6. Tweak a Current Project
During our Pre-Engineering class, we were learning how to write programs for the movement of our robots when one of the girls saw a picture showing that a pen could be gripped in the robot's claw arm. We tried it right away, and then developed a very simple pattern of movements that turned our robots into spirographs. We kept adjusting the code in the program to make different designs on the paper.
Try making adjustments to a current project in your own classroom. Do you have students model viruses on paper? Try giving them more freedom to display their work in a more artistic way if they wish.
Do you have your middle school classes draw out floor plans of houses when you study area and perimeter? Add to this project by having your students design a geometric rug with a certain area for the floor and dilating and rotating the artistic design on the rug to make a matching similar figure in a different orientation for a larger room.
7. Drawing FROM Famous Art
Find a famous artwork, song, or poem that portrays the concept your class is studying (tesselations by Escher, "Starry Night" for learning about stars) and ask students questions about the accuracy or content of the art. Ask your 5th graders which phase of the moon may be occuring in certain songs about the moon ("like a big pizza pie - That's AMORE!"). Ask your 10th graders to find a piece of famous art that contains a pair of congruent triangles.
Do you teach fractions? Have your students investigate some sheet music for a tune they are familiar with. Teach the basics of half notes and quarter notes. Ask them to make connections to the math behind the music or even write out the note values for another song they know based on the beats.
8. Swap out your traditional quiz with a creative “Create your Own Quiz” version
It is great to have your class come up with quiz questions as a review. Students have done it many times, and often they write more challenging questions than the teacher does! Your students may enjoy an artistic adaptation of this. Try having them create a simple color-by-number review activity for a partner instead.
The image should be something representative of the content, and multiple choice answers can correspond to certain colors for regions of the picture. Your class will still be reviewing and writing questions about the same content, but they will also be thinking about what elements are most important to include in their picture. They can then swap and enjoy answering and coloring as a review activity.
9. Doodle Notes
In case you haven’t heard, doodle notes provide tons of learning benefits! Students will integrate art while connecting the two brain hemispheres. This leads to better focus, memory, problem-solving skills, and even lower stress levels. Just check out this post or go to doodlenotes.org to learn more.
If you want to try it out for free, you can download these “Engage Your Brain” Doodle Notes. It will help you teach your students about using the doodle note strategy and how their brain works!
Do you have any other unique ways to add art into your classroom? We’d love to hear your thoughts, below!
If you are working to add more creativity into your teaching, enter your email address here to hear more from me, get support, and download resources to help you along the way!
To Read Next:
Click to set custom HTML