The Art of STEAM

A friend of mine was lamenting on Instagram recently about the lack of space in primary and elementary schools dedicated to Art. She is a brilliant art teacher and knows first-hand the positive thinking, community building and enjoyment that happens when children are allowed to express themselves through something they create themselves.

I sympathize entirely, the art room at my school was a wonderful place that had its own relaxed atmosphere, an inviting amount of mess, and walls and shelves for displaying the students work. But sometimes, it felt like an exclusive place for people who had been told that they were talented at Art. Worse still in the UK as in the US, often electing to take Art ruled you out of taking an additional Science. With Art and Science departments often physically far apart, there was little chance for any projects that encouraged the two to work together, unfortunate since so many jobs demand problem-solving skills, requiring people who can be both creative and analytical in their thinking..

Of course it would be wonderful to have a room in every school dedicated to creativity. But for younger years, I wonder if this needs to be a room that's labelled The Art Room. Here in California, schools are rapidly converting corridors, corners of classrooms and underused cupboards to be makerspaces. And the ones that do are seeing very positive results. 

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These creative spaces have the materials that you would expect to see in an art room, but also tools that encourage children to explore mechanics, circuits, and technology.  You don't need to be arty, knowledgeable about science, or anything in particular to enjoy these places.

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They are spaces for tinkering, exploring, self-directed learning. They are an open invitation to create work that is not graded, because how could anyone possibly grade someone's imagination?

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I welcome these pop-up makerspaces as the modern version of the art room, and would encourage any arts teacher to look into ways they could integrate this kind of STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Art and Math) cross-curricula learning into the projects they choose to teach.

As schools up their game for being 21st-centures of education, there is a huge demand for STEM teachers in schools. Their role is often as coordinators who work with all the teachers - and students - in the school. In my book, the more teachers that come from an Arts background, the better. Who knows, do it well enough, and they may even get their own room.

Claire Comins is the founder of TinkerTech, creating and providing curriculum that helps students discover STEAM through fun themed project-based activities

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