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The Mona Lisa is arguably the most famous painting in the world. Leonardo Da Vinci, who created many other famous works such as The Last Supper or Vitruvian Man, is seen as a notable artist in history for his lifelike representations of humans. But did you know that Da Vinci was an inventor and a scientist, too? In the Renaissance era, Da Vinci’s discoveries were way ahead of his time (such as sketching models that could be used as blueprints for helicopters, artilleries, and catapults that came to exist hundreds of years later).
Da Vinci is a prime example of someone who mastered both art and science. Is it possible that art can nurture and complement STEM? In this blog, we take a closer look at the connections between art and STEM (called STEAM education), and we explore how to integrate art into computer science.
You may be familiar with the term STEM, which standards for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. But what does STEAM stand for? The letter A stands for the Arts – music, theater, dance, drawing, painting, etc.
But what does art have anything to do with STEM?
Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) use creative processes to observe, interpret, and analyze the world around us. Isn’t that what art is all about, too?
STEM is all about problem solving and critical thinking, and it’s safe to say that those skills involve creativity. To explore how art and creativity can help nurture STEM learning, we spoke with a music teacher, Shaun Laqeretabua, who was tasked with teaching computer science. How has computer science helped foster problem solving and critical thinking when learning music, and vice versa?
“Computer science is very logical and has rules in the way things operate. I have been able to use that framework (of rules and logic) to think through some musical ideas including finding patterns, if-then approach of making or writing music, as well as developing contextual understanding of songs and other pieces of music.
One of the lessons I have learned about creativity is that it thrives within some form of structure. With that understanding my musical background has helped me think outside the box.
Even within the rules of the written music I know that there are hundreds of ways I can express those elements of music. The same can be said for computer science.
There are foundational rules that music and computers must abide by and it works, but the real beauty of either discipline comes from the interpretation of those rules and how individuals find their own unique function within those boundaries.”
According to Shaun, frameworks and rules actually aid in creativity. Just like there are hundreds of ways to compose elements of music, there are hundreds of ways to investigate and solve problems within STEM. So, why is STEAM important? Integrating art into STEM acknowledges the fact that creativity is necessary to be successful throughout the field. To help you make this connection with your students, we laid out some STEAM education resources in the next section.
What are the benefits of STEAM education? Giving students the opportunity to be curious learners and seek creative solutions strengthens life-long learning. Shaun Laqeretabua, music teacher from C.S. Lewis Academy in Utah, emphasizes problem solving as a connection between STEM and art. He says, “One of the largest connections I have seen is learning through trial and error. When either learning a new song or songwriting many times there are things that just work but other times it doesn’t come together the right way. When those failures or disconnects come I know that there is an answer that I can find. Sometimes it’s a simple or minor adjustment and other solutions require a whole new type of input or approach.”
Art fosters students’ ability to see alternate solutions and perspectives when problem solving, and that is such an essential part of the STEM domains. To help you integrate art and teach STEAM in your classroom, consider the following examples of STEAM activities that you can download for free as STEM lessons pdf!
Art can be found in many forms. While art could be picking up an instrument or a paintbrush, it could also be found in technology. Take for example, an animator who works at Pixar, or a photographer who uses Photoshop to improve picture quality. Technology has provided new platforms for art to be created, just as art has paved the way for higher learning throughout STEAM fields. STEAM education has given students the tools they need to navigate the world.
To explore the impact of STEAM, let’s evaluate a couple STEAM education research studies. In a study focused on elementary students, STEAM-based curriculum was found to have positive influences on students. (Tran et al, 2021). This study evaluated the three elements of scientific creativity: fluency, flexibility, and originality. It was found that STEAM-based courses significantly improved students’ fluency and flexibility. In a similar study focused on junior high students, results implied that STEAM courses help students expand their scientific creativity (Tran et al, 2021). Students who participated in a STEAM course (experimental group) scored significantly higher on the posttest than students who participated in a STEM course (control group).
As art is integrated into the domains of STEM, consider the uses of STEAM in daily life and real-life problems that students will encounter. In the scientific creativity test used in the studies above, students were tasked with responding to a problem such as, “Think of as many possible improvements as you can to a regular bicycle, making it more interesting, more useful, and more beautiful.” When students are empowered with the skills they gain from art, it’s no surprise when they come up with extraordinary, scientific results. So when you ask yourself, “Why is STEAM education important,” remember the countless doors that can be opened for student success in life.
Ellipsis Education provides full-year computer science curriculum for K-12. STEAM is practiced throughout our K-12 Pathway to help foster important problem solving and critical thinking skills. Below, take a glimpse at how art and creativity are incorporated into computer science lessons. We understand the importance of STEAM education, so we provide opportunities for students to integrate the A in STEAM throughout each course. To view the courses in which these lessons came from, visit our courses page. Each course page includes STEAM curriculum for elementary school pdf, STEM curriculum middle school pdf, or high school STEM curriculum pdf.
Computer Science Foundations 2 Coding Lesson: Trip to the Theatre – In this activity, students compose a play and code their animations using a Theatre Backdrop in the coding platform, Scratch Jr. The lesson begins with a discussion on types of performing arts, and students evaluate and further build their own understanding of various types of artistic performances. Students personalize their projects by utilizing many features within the coding platform such as a Paint tool, sound recording capabilities, and other commands to broadcast events that showcase their own trip to the theatre. Here, students are presented an opportunity to authentically fuse artistic expression into their computer science experience.
Computer Science Fundamentals 4 Coding Lesson: Abstract Art Project – In this activity, students discover how parameters work to make functions even more versatile and reusable. By implementing parameters in functions, students create abstract art within a program. Here, students are challenged to integrate their knowledge of coding to code different shapes. Students are presented with a choice board and are able to complete artistic challenges that they are most interested in.
Intro to CS Applications Coding Lesson: Polishing our Famous Character Website – In this activity, students put the finishing touches on their famous character website by scrutinizing color schemes. Students also review the HTML and CSS content they have learned through collaborative debugging and collecting user feedback. Here, students are able to explain HEX code color and apply it to their own CSS styling for their final product.
HS CS Python Unplugged Lesson: Tailor-Made Functions – In this activity, students deepen their understanding of functions and function calls by participating in a functions story performance. Students act out functions and differentiate between those that return a value and those that produce output. Students then explore the benefits of using parameters and arguments in a program to customize functions. Finally, students discuss real-world applications of functions.
In this free STEAM lesson, called Gaming Concepts: Clones, students will learn about how clones are used in game development. Students will use creativity to code their own game that incorporates clones. This lesson plan STEAM education pdf and all of our free STEAM resources include links to the appropriate materials and resources, a detailed procedure, activity tips, and a bonus challenge activity.