The STEM Education Blog

STEM to STEAM—Art Working as a Catalyst for Education 🧠

Sep 30, 2019 12:00:00 PM / by Sara Siener

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A new study shows that "students in the arts-integrated classes remember significantly more content than their peers"  - District Administration (DA)

STEM education is electrifying! As fanatics for everything science, technology, engineering, and math it is difficult for nerds like us to even consider why our students would not be as passionate for STEM as we are. Once we see its innovative potential, we are weak in the knees. 

Unfortunately, post-graduation, the majority of our students do not pursue STEM careers. According to Pew Research Center, around half of America (52%) believes that students don’t pursue STEM because they think these subjects are too hard. Additionally, in a smaller study, researchers found that many people believe that STEM is uninteresting and tedious. 

With STEM careers in high demand, it is essential for teachers to find a way to engage their students while they are still attending secondary schools. By engaging our students, educators will be able to achieve two critical components to learning—better grades and an enriched understanding. 

Teachers today are finding new and innovative ways on how they can teach STEM subjects to their students. Many were surprised to learn that an effective way to do this is to incorporate art instructional methodologies into their curriculum.

Education Closet shares that in theory, art is meant to act as the catalyst for STEM education—changing STEM into STEAM. "STEAM education integrates the arts as a way to manipulate science, technology, engineering, and math"—using teaching strategies that make learning exciting for students.

District Administration (DA) shared a study conducted on STEAM methodologies that were applied in a "randomized control trial across 16 schools, [where] fifth-grade classes were assigned to either an arts-integrated or a control condition." 

In one of their studies, researchers had students within chemistry lessons "read about different states of matter and complete worksheets" as a part of their control group.

Meanwhile, the experimental group, the arts-integrated based chemistry lesson, had "students split into groups to use their bodies to depict how solids, liquids, and gases move."

"When tested 15 days after instruction, there were no differences between groups. However, 10 weeks later, the lowest-performing students in the arts-integrated classes remembered significantly more content than their peers in the control classes."

Even though these studies were conducted in just a few lessons in schools around the area, their research findings retrieved by STEAM methodologies cannot be ignored, especially in classrooms who have a history of under-performing students. What research is telling teachers is that, through STEAM practices, students can find excitement in learning while retaining new information in their science and math courses for much longer periods of time. Findings discovered by studies like these cannot be overlooked when they implicate our students and children.

And because STEM is becoming more prevalent in today's careers and businesses, it is vital for our schools to prepare their students for, not just the school year, but for their lives in post-secondary schools. 

Mariale Hardiman, director of the Neuro-Education Initiative at the Johns Hopkins School of Education in Maryland, expresses, "If we can begin to close the gap for children who are at the lower levels of achievement because they are learning through the arts, that's something leaders and policymakers need to know."

3 Ways to Integrate the Arts

District Administration writes about what, arts integration specialist, Clare Grizzard is telling those who are wanting to implement STEAM methodologies into their curriculum ...

  1. Education: require students to enroll in visual arts—theater and music.
  2. Experiences: partner with local cultural institutions for assemblies, performances, field trips, and guest speakers.
  3. Integrated curriculum: align arts-infused lessons to traditional content standards.

CAUTION: Putting Arts-Integration Into PracticeImage result for stop

While arts-integration is cost-effective, it is critical for teachers to be trained in its pedagogy before introducing these reformed teaching strategies into their own classrooms.

"You could waste a lot of time doing crafty activities where kids have fun but don't learn content," declares Hardiman.

Yes, teachers need to be trained on these practices, but it is just as essential for teachers to be "given the freedom to use their own content and materials." By making their teaching methodologies their own while incorporating art-infused practices, teachers can create lessons that are memorable. This shift in teaching is what our students need to be a success in their futures.


Read more about arts integration here: What is Arts Integration?

Check out these FREE lesson plans for arts integration here: Arts-Integrated Lesson Plans

If you liked this article, read more about other pedagogical methods to apply in your classroom here: Getting the Most Out of Project-Based Learning

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Topics: STEM Learning Methodologies

Sara Siener

Written by Sara Siener