Classroom learning is subject-specific, even though organic learning in the real world is cross-curricular, experiential, and contextual. A thematic approach toward teaching subjects in a cross-curricular fashion can reinforce conceptual understandings by exposing students to the same information in different ways. Art, for instance, is a fantastic way to visualize and communicate scientific models, mathematical relationships, and historical events. Art is also an incredibly important part of STEM because it helps students learn communication skills, empathy, creativity, and innovation.
How Do You Incorporate STEM Thinking Into Art Lessons?
By integrating open-ended questions into your teaching, you can nurture scientific thinking processes across all subjects. Here are some questions you can ask your students to help them think critically (and scientifically) about the art that they do in your classroom:
What are you trying to communicate with your art?
Rather than thinking of the art in terms of simply creating it, this question gets students to think about why they made certain decisions about their art and what their art may communicate to other people; it gets your students to think about art from an outsider perspective.
When you look at other pieces of art (e.g., art from their classmates, art in a gallery) how does it make you feel? What do you think this person’s art is trying to communicate?
This question can help your students develop empathy by having them think about their own feelings and the feelings of their peers as they interpret the purpose of an art piece from the artist’s perspective. Empathy is a very important aspect in STEM. The innovators of tomorrow must think about the impact their creations will have on humanity, on the environment, and on other living beings.
When you look at your artwork, what would you do to improve it?
This question aligns with the i5E instructional model by having students evaluate and personally reflect on their work. Frequent reflection helps students develop an awareness of their skills as they think about what they would like to learn next and how they can improve.
If you were to do this project again, what would you do differently and why?
Scientists experiment, record their data, and learn from their research to improve their work. Engineers constantly improve, improvise, and innovate in order to continually develop better systems, structures, and technology. By posing this question in art, you are reinforcing the idea of continual improvement, progress, and reflection.
Want more ideas on combining art with STEM? Read this Edutopia article on how teacher Jill Fletcher uses art to assess math! How do you use art in STEM? Please share your ideas in our comments, or post them to our Facebook Group to continue the conversation.