EDUCATION + SCHOOLS

STEAM learning excites students, builds life skills, according to experts

Jul 31, 2023, 11:41 AM | Updated: Nov 22, 2023, 11:51 am

Guadalupe school groundbreaking ceremony...

The scene at the Guadalupe School groundbreaking ceremony for its new STEM outdoor classroom. (Guadalupe School.)

(Guadalupe School.)

SALT LAKE CITY — Arts advocates, researchers, and educators say the arts have a strong impact on learning. The Guadalupe School in Salt Lake City, Utah, has implemented Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) into its curriculum. The implementation of STEAM learning enables students to participate in experiential learning, creativity, and discovery. 

The Institute for Arts Integration and STEAM said Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) curricula in schools are a good start to providing K-12 students.  The American economy demands more than just an understanding of STEM topics, it requires creativity and innovation. 

The integration of the arts, to form STEAM, is meant to remedy this. 

According to the National Arts Education Association, the Every Student Succeeds Act includes the arts in defining a “well-rounded education.” 

STEAM learning 

According to the National Institute for Arts Integration and STEAM, is “an approach to learning that uses Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Mathematics as access points for guiding student inquiry, dialogue, and critical thinking.” 

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Education said that education becomes more effective when creativity is integrated into classroom activities. 

Maverick STEAM outdoor classroom 

The Guadalupe School in Salt Lake City recently opened a STEAM outdoor classroom, said Becky Youkstetter, the school’s development director. 

This classroom enables young students to participate in self-directed learning.

Youkstetter said that one-day last winter, a group of students found a frozen dragonfly. Their teacher was able to use their discovery as a teaching tool, giving them a science lesson about the dragonfly. Then, Youkstetter said, the students gathered things from outside and created their own art. 

The integration of the arts into the STEM approach allows a stronger emphasis to be placed on creativity. It helps educators guide students in developing skills for collaboration, problem-solving, and enhanced engagement. 

Experiential learning can help keep students interested and engaged. 

Coupled with the scientific benefits of the arts on the brain, students enjoy creating their own art.

“We know children love art. They love to create. So we wanted to give them the opportunity to really be able to explore their creativity,” said Youkstetter. 

Youkstetter said that the outdoor classroom has outdoor musical instruments and an art wall, where the students can draw and create art inspired by what they are learning. 

“They can create art from their experiences of what they’re learning. It’s just another way to tie in and kind of solidify a topic that they maybe are learning about in that classroom,” said Youkstetter. 

The outdoor classroom also includes elements such as a soil box, a water table, and a topographic map of Utah. All of these features are meant to promote creativity and experiential learning. 

“I just see an excitement. They’re curious, they’ll look at something and ask questions,” said Youkstetter. 

Impact of art on the brain 

According to a report by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), participation and education in the arts have been associated with improved cognitive, social, and behavioral outcomes. The report also said that these outcomes benefit people of all age groups. 

A 2015 literature review written by Melissa Menzer said that toddlers that were attending schools with arts programs integrated into their curriculum could better articulate and regulate their emotions. 

Menzer’s literature review found that parents who sang to their children three times a week observed that their children had stronger social skills. Menzer also found that toddlers who participated in a classroom-based music education program were more likely to be socially cooperative, independent, and interactive. Participation for as little as four months was linked to these increased, teacher-reported behaviors. 

“I see an excitement in learning because of this new space. It’s their favorite place to be,” said Youkstetter of the Guadalupe School’s outdoor STEAM learning classroom. 

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STEAM learning excites students, builds life skills, according to experts