Tuesday, March 13, 2018

My thoughts on STEAM/Arts Integration

It's time for the monthly Art Ed Blogger's Network post, when a whole bunch of us art ed bloggers all post on the same day on the same topic that we think will interest all our readers.  This month's theme is a hot topic these days: STEAM/Arts Integration.  I've posted my thoughts about STEAM twice before here on the blog.  If you've never read them before and have a moment, please hop on over to read those posts, because they will enhance what I'm saying today.  You can find them HERE (from May 9, 2017), and HERE (from Feb 1, 2016)
March's edition of School Arts Magazine is the STEAM-themed issue, timed with the NAEA convention with the NAEA convention theme of Art + Design = STEAM.  For the first time ever, I've become a published author in this issue of School Arts!  You can find my article,The Art and Science of Trihexaflexagons, beginning on page 26. (*If you do look at my article, note that it is listed as elementary, but is really more well-suited to middle level students.  Also, it is really more of a math-integrated project than science; I didn't write the title!) 
If the article intrigues you and you want to know more about trihexaflexagons, you'll find posts about them on my blog HERE from March 2011, HERE from December 2011,and HERE from August 2015, where I talk about the project as it relates to the Standards for Mathematical Practice.

If you read my prior post from May 9, 2017, you'd know there's a strange irony to my being published in the STEAM issue, since in that post I said, regarding STEAM, "I'm here to flat-out tell you, I am so sick and tired of hearing about it."  Yup, I said that.

The fact is, for the 4 decades I've spent teaching art to kids, I've used math and science countless times, and not just making flexagons.   Every time I've guided students how to measure with a ruler or how to draw a geometric shape, every time I've discussed symmetry or taught perspective, and so on, my lesson has incorporated mathematical terminology, math skills.  Every time my students have explored color mixing or used a resist technique, every time they've learned about light and shadow, every time we've mixed plaster of Paris and felt it grow warm and then cold before hardening, every time we've discussed what glues are best to use for porous and non-porous materials, and so on, my lesson has incorporated science.  When a paintbrush, loaded with white paint, was accidentally dipped into blue paint (photo below), we may briefly try to comprehend the science of what is happening, but ultimately, I'm still teaching art.
So WHY, after decades without the label, do I now have to label any lesson that incorporates science or math as a STEAM lesson to prove that I am engaging students in science or math while in art class??  Quite honestly, I think it's ludicrous.  Every time a math teacher or science teacher has a student draw/color a graph or a diagram, do you think they make sure to label it so everyone knows they are incorporating art into their lesson?  Do they refer to it as a STEAM lesson?  No.  I don't think so.

Same thing goes for the elementary classroom teacher that has their students build a model or design a poster.  Do they have an acronym they use to prove to everyone that they are 'teaching' art in their social studies or science or math lesson?  Of course not.  Because they are NOT actually TEACHING art.  They are simply incorporating some art materials and methodology into their academic lesson, which is their primary focus.  The truth is, I do not want them to teach art.  Because that is not their area of expertise, is not what they were trained to teach.  That's MY job, what I spent my career learning to do, and hopefully do well.
And when I teach someone to use a ruler to measure lines to cut a paper loom for weaving, or how to fold a 6-pointed paper snowflake using a protractor, I may be incorporating a specific math-related skill into my art lesson, but I am NOT actually teaching math.  I'm still teaching art; my goal is the art product created using the tools and materials, which might include a ruler or a compass or a protractor.  When I have students write an artist's statement on a piece they've made, I am NOT teaching writing.  I'm using writing as a vehicle to enhance the art curriculum.  I am not trained as a writing teacher, a math teacher, a science teacher, or a social studies teacher.  I may have some knowledge in those various disciplines, but my area of expertise is visual art.

I'm lucky; I'm retired, and I work with students in an independent business, so I don't have to answer to anyone but the parents of the students I teach, who pay for them to attend.  And I can tell you, they want their children to have lots of hands-on art-making time in my program, and are not concerned about acronyms to label the projects we do.  

Am I making sense?  Feel free to disagree!  I know STEAM is the hot topic these days, but I just can't get excited about the terminology.  Thanks for visiting - use the links below to visit some other bloggers' posts on this same topic.  I expect their posts will probably be VERY different than mine. 
This month, The Art Ed Blogger's Network is writing about STEAM/Art Integration. Join us on the first Tuesday each month for new projects, ideas, and inspiration.

Participating Art Teacher Blogs:

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Our vist to the Met

On a recent trip to New York, my husband and I decided to visit the Met.  It was the final day of the Michelangelo exhibit, and I'd heard it was not-to-be-missed.
We've been to the Met many times, and I've learned you need to pick and choose what you want to see; it's unrealistic to expect to see everything in one day.  I discovered there was also a David Hockney exhibit, and since his 'Nichols Canyon' is maybe my all-time favorite painting, I knew that was on our itinerary.  Plus there was also a Thomas Cole exhibit, which interested my husband.  By the time we finished with those three exhibits, stopped for lunch, and explored several other galleries, our feet and bodies were done!  In the process, we totally missed the Joseph Cornell exhibit. Below is a Hockney painting that really grabbed me.
 Check out the amazing drawing this man is doing in the museum!  Wow!
Here's my overall impression of our day:  First of all, I never cease to be amazed at the scope of the Met.  Whew!! The museum is exhausting!!  If you've never been there, GO!  There's something for everybody. But don't expect to see everything in the museum in one day.  As for our day, I was blown away by the incredible Michelangelo work, but the Hockney paintings made me happy, and I'd love to see them every day. Cole's work is impressive, but not my personal taste.  My husband, as expected, loved it best.  He sat down and took a break for the first half of the Hockney exhibit.  Here's an intriguing early Hockney, and a lush Cole painting of Niagara Falls.
About the Michelangelo show specifically - my biggest takeaway was the realization of how incredibly impatient we are today.  The show was, as always with a popular exhibition, incredibly hard for a rather short person to view properly.  We went first thing in the morning, but it was still crowded, so some pieces were hard to see.  But still, the scope of the work, and what went into creating it, is mind-blowing.  I kept thinking about how much more time he spent on his studies for paintings, than I would ever imagine spending on a whole painting.  And I thought about students, who seem to love copying photos, and how much more info Michelangelo took in by studying the human body structure and doing multiple studies.  Awe-inspiring. I couldn't help but think of my favorite drawing and painting teachers from college, Alex Minewski and Alex Martin, who both gave sketchbook assignments such as to do endless articulated cube drawings of your hands. Practice, practice, practice!!
But still, I was most smitten with the Hockney paintings.  I have a large framed print of Nichols Canyon hanging in my living room, so I was tickled to see the real thing.  I love the print, but the painting... oh my!  Gorgeous!.  And so many of the others!  I'd love to show you them all!  The sense of humor in some older paintings, and the vibrancy in the newer ones - all I can say is WOW to the rich and dynamic color, and the feeling of being drenched in warm sunshine. Indulge me while I share a selection with you, starting with Nichols Canyon.
As for the rest of the museum, whenever I'm there I always stop and visit the Tiffany windows, but this time I saw some Tiffany vases and jewelry and such that I'd never spotted before; this place is just too darn big!!  Here's a selection of random pics from the day -