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STEAM Ahead - merging arts and science

A new approach to teaching STEM is gaining momentum in the USA by incorporating art with maths and science.

Creative, scientific learning

A new approach to teaching STEM is gaining momentum in the USA by incorporating art with maths and science.

The programme, known as STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) trains and embeds teaching artists into preschool classrooms and is being used by US-based Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts. The artists meet with teachers to develop an engaging curriculum and then visit classrooms twice a week for half an hour of activity. In one class, teaching artist Amanda Layten, combines dance and maths to help pupils develop memory, balance and numeracy skills. The children roll a dice and then ‘balance the number’ - if they roll a one they have to balance on one leg.
Matching STEM with art may seem strange to some, but this approach supports findings from a study by the National Endowment for the Arts which shows that students from lower socio-economic backgrounds who actively participated in the arts tended to score better in science and writing, and were more likely to aspire to further education.

The study used survey data gathered over 20 years that followed socially and economically disadvantaged students, from kindergarten into their early twenties.
Akua Kouyate, Senior Director of Education at Wolf Trap sees investment in arts education as a way of helping Americans compete in the global economy. "Part of what the arts certainly provides is the creativity and innovation, which is really fundamental in how many other countries are looking at success," said Kouyate. "Actually in the U.S., how we want to measure success is in terms of how to be creative, how to be innovative - the arts bring that specifically into the learning experience."

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