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Why the Arts are Essential in 21st Century Education

Danielle Blahowicz

Medaille College

EDU 571: Technology for the Elementary Classroom

Professor Mary Beth Scumaci

February 3, 2018

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STEM is an educational approach to
student learning that focuses on
teaching Science, Technology,
Engineering, and Mathematics in an
integrated way (Riley, 2016).

STEM education prepares students for

the future by providing them with the
knowledge and skills to be successful
and meet the needs of the 21st century
economy (Riley, 2016).

STEM is…
 Motivating, engaging, and real-world
 Teaching methods are inquiry-based and student-centered

Students who study STEM learn to:

 Collaborate and work as part of a team
 Develop and use skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, and
 Inquire, explore, and discover new things in a safe environment without fear
of failure
(Jolly, 2014)

Integrated STEM learning is becoming a It is suggested that this year,

requirement to create qualified there will be 1.2 million job
individuals needed in the workforce, openings in the STEM fields.
both in the U.S. and abroad. The
Many of these jobs will go
workforce and the economy demand
unfilled because of a projected
that students increase their knowledge
in the STEM fields (Maslyk, 2016, p. 7). shortage of qualified applicants
(Maslyk, 2016, p. 7).

Niagara Frontier Reading Council – 2018 Winter Conference
Through STEAM education, students develop strategies and
define patterns (left-brain) and represent ideas spatially
through color and design (right-brain) (Maslyk, 2016, p. 8).



Left-brain learners possess strengths in

sequential thinking and critical details.
They are logical, analytical, and
driven by facts. For left-brain learners,
traditional teaching of Science, Technology,
Engineering, and Mathematics make sense
(Maslyk, 2016, pp. 8-9).


Right-brain learners are more creative and

do not think in a linear fashion. They are
visual, artistic, and imaginative. STEM
works for left-brain learners, but it excludes
right-brain learners who are creative, and
thrive from hands-on, innovative learning
experiences (Maslyk, 2016, pp. 8-9).

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Students who study STEAM learn to…

 Take thoughtful risks

 Engage in experiential learning
 Persist in problem solving
 Embrace collaboration
 Work through the creative process
(Riley, 2016)

Integrating the Arts in STEM curriculum supports a

well-rounded education by preparing students for
college, career and beyond.

The “A” represents all

forms of the Arts including:

 Language Arts
 Fine Arts
 Music
 Social Studies
 Physical Arts

(Yakman, 2015)

Niagara Frontier Reading Council – 2018 Winter Conference
Benefits of Integrating the Arts into STEM

It is an effective way to connect with all students.

The hands-on, multi-sensory nature of

STEAM education allows for diverse learning
opportunities for all types of learners. It Students with learning
allows for a less restrictive, more flexible disabilities, autism, speech
learning experience to address students’ and language needs, and
individual learning goals and to support English Language Learners
students’ unique needs. More specifically, often benefit from
STEAM Making addresses the needs of
experiences in STEAM
students who may have difficulty with
Making (Maslyk, 2016, p. 56).
social interaction, who may be nonverbal, or
who need sensory input (Maslyk, 2016, p. 56).

It helps to connect with

students’ individual strengths
and interests.

This makes learning more personal

for students, which helps them
become more motivated and
engaged in their own learning.
Students also learn that everyone
has unique skills and can be good at
something. This fosters student-
centered learning and increases the
probability of effective learning of
STEM content (Jolly, 2014).

Niagara Frontier Reading Council – 2018 Winter Conference
It fosters divergent thinking.

Students are given opportunities and are

encouraged to think-outside-the box, take
chances, and be creative. They are free to
express and share their own ideas and
interpretations without inhibition. This engages
and develops their critical thinking and problem-
solving skills.

It teaches students how to work as a team.

Students are provided with opportunities to work

collaboratively with other students, which
strengthens their communication and social skills.
Students also learn to listen to others and to take

It empowers students’ growth mindset.

STEAM education fosters an “I can do it” attitude.

Students are encouraged to wonder, inquire,
critique and innovate throughout the learning
process. Students learn to challenge themselves,
take thoughtful risks, learn from their mistakes.,
and to try again. This teaches students to be
resilient and to persevere in the face of challenges.

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Getting Started with STEAM

There must be a meaningful

connection between the
standards, assessments
and lesson design /
implementation so that
students understand the content
and are prepared for real-world
experiences (Riley, 2016).

A true STEAM experience involves

two or more standards
from Science, Technology,
Engineering, Math and the
Arts, which should be taught and
assessed through each other
(Riley, 2016).

Inquiry, collaboration, and an

emphasis on process-based
learning should be at the heart
of STEAM learning (Riley, 2016).

Utilizing and leveraging the

integrity of the Arts is
essential to providing students
with an authentic STEAM learning
experience (Riley, 2016).

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More teacher resources:

1. STEAM Makers: Fostering Creativity and Innovation in the Elementary

Classroom by Jacie Maslyk (2016)
2. STEAM Kids: 50+ Science/Technology/Engineering/Art/Math Hands-On
Projects for Kids by Anne Carey (2016)
3. How to Get Started with STEAM
4. 6 Steps to Create a STEAM-Centered Classroom
5. 10 Awesome STEAM Activity Books for Kids
6. Teaching Growth Mindset to Empower Positive Change
7. 40 STEAM Apps an Websites
8. Top 20 of 2017 STEAM App List (for Elementary, Middle & High School)
9. STEAM Guides, Training, Kits, and Free Resources
10. 35 Lessons that Explore Math and Art
11. STEAM Books, Activities/Projects, and Blogs
12. 114 Tips to Make a STEAM Maker Space in Schools
13. Extensive List of Maker Space Materials

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Jolly, A. (2014). STEM vs. STEAM: Do the Arts belong? [Blog post].
Retrieved from

Maslyk, J. (2016). STEAM Makers: Fostering Creativity and

Innovation in the Classroom. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin.

Riley, Susan. (2016). What is Steam? Retrieved from

Yakman, Georgette. (2015). Educators STEAM Education. Retrieved from

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