A Case for Focusing on the “A” in STEAM Year-Round
|By Dr. Monika Wiley
Initiatives such as National STEAM Day highlight the increasing need for curriculum that prepares students to enter the growing STEM workforce — but schools need to think beyond a single day of the year. National STEAM Day serves as a reminder to fully engage students in STEAM activities, and foster a lifelong passion for problem-solving, creating and inventing year-round.
Educators can seek new ways to encourage STEAM learning, even when students are not in math or science class. At Clayton County Public Schools, a district-wide initiative was launched to integrate art across core curriculums in order to focus on STEAM in everyday instruction. As the district’s director of fine arts, I have guided teachers through a multi-step process that embraces a school culture of arts-integration and STEAM learning.
Cultivating a STEAM Culture
Launching an initiative to reach our 54,000 students in 66 schools took more than just a few dedicated staff members. We had to create a culture that encouraged arts-integration and risk-taking across all of our subjects to encourage STEAM learning. This type of culture shift starts with getting buy-in from leadership and flows down to every staff member in our schools.
Every target school has a distinct group of teachers that are willing to embrace something new. We identified these teachers to become part of Creative Leadership Teams aimed to inspire a shift in mentality among their colleagues and students.
Each school’s leadership team worked with administrators to empower their fellow teachers with support and resources necessary to foster a growth mindset. Together, we worked to integrate art across our core curriculums without disrupting the core content in each subject area. Instead of starting a huge initiative to immediately integrate art into schools, we began working with principals to deepen commitment to STEAM learning and foster an environment of creative learning.
Beyond Basic PD
Too often, new initiatives fail at schools because the professional development needed to support educators comes to a halt when training ends. We wanted to implement changes that were sustainable. We relied on creatED by Crayola Education to maintain support as long as we needed it. The program’s instruction strategies are designed to be used in tandem with all teaching styles and classroom technologies. Being a G-Suite district, it’s important that any new initiatives support the technology that’s already used in our schools. Implementations sometimes disrupt teaching and learning. With our arts-integration program, teachers and students can use the tools they find the most
effective for project-based learning and collaboration.
The program’s training shaped our Creative Leadership Teams and supported them as they shared best practices throughout the schools. The teams learned more than just how to integrate art into core instruction, they learned best practices for encouraging their fellow teachers to take risks and use new teaching strategies.
Our professional development program also supplied all of our teachers with sample lesson plans and access to other resources, such as webinars, that allowed them to build on the momentum created by our Creative Leadership Teams.
The Need for STEAM
Students who have high levels of art participation show higher levels of academic achievement, classroom engagement and community participation. They also develop soft skills such as creativity, collaboration and risk-tasking, which are just as important in today’s workforce.
To help students develop those skills, we don’t just celebrate National STEAM Day once a year. In our classrooms, every day is National STEAM Day.
Dr. Monika Wiley is the director of fine arts for Clayton County Public Schools in Georgia. Follow them on Twitter @CCPSNews.
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