Tracy Jones of YoungSTEMS interviews 2 Howard County Public Schools Art Teachers About STEM Educations

Tracy Jones, Founder of YoungSTEMs and Author of Careers in STEM A to Z, recently sat down with Phelps Luck Elementary School art teachers Karen Langevin and Alanna Berman to discuss the connection between art and STEM education.  The following is the interview with these two educators.

Introduction: There are efforts in STEM that incorporate the arts, slightly changing STEM to STEAM – science, technology, engineering, ART, and mathematics.  However, we are interested in how art incorporates STEM.  In other words, how are science, technology, engineering, and mathematics used in your work as art teachers?

YS: As art teachers, do you use science, technology, engineering, mathematics?

Art Teachers: Many of the lessons we teach go back to natural elements, such as clay.  For example, as kids learn about the properties of clay drying out, they need to experience it by working with it with their hands. As they sculpt it, there is some engineering in it like balancing the piece so it doesn’t fall over.

We engage the students in art that involves trees and leaves and things like that. Nature is the inspiration. And the human condition is also something we use as inspiration.

Our curriculum covers materials, painting, drawing, clay, 3-D, and all forms of art as well as artists working in the field.

We use architects and architecture as exemplars. In 4th grade, for example, we show the Greek temples and move forward all the way to Frank Lloyd Wright, and modern architect Frank Gehry.  We show students how they borrow from the past to transform their work.

Applied math is seen in our kindergarten and primary grades.  In their art, students put shapes together and work a lot with patterns.  Also, geometry, 2D and 3D shapes.   These reinforce what they’ve learned in the classroom.

We have the students work with halves.  For example, we might ask, “What does it look like when you fold this item in half?”  Fractions are simple, but important in art.

YS: Can you tell us more about the use of fractions in art?

Art Teachers:  We help students see how things are symmetrical and balanced.  And, on purpose, not making it symmetrical. Important art elements include creating multiples, balance, and patterns.

YS:  I’ve heard you speak of nature science, mathematics, and engineering.  Tell us about your use of technology.

Art Teachers:  We are still trying to figure out which programs and projects would be relevant and age appropriate at the elementary level.

YS:  What about graphic art?

Art Teachers:  We may need to reach out to find out what is available for elementary students.  Graphic art might be possible with upper elementary grades 3 through 5.  It would match with the elements we teach*.  Software changes often in the graphic arts world.  How do you keep up with the current programs?

It is challenging using computers as a whole new tool with a lot of complexities to it.  Getting the kids to feel comfortable with the tools would take a long time. In high school and college, whole courses are dedicated to this.

Being able to build and make something is not something that comes naturally.  Some kids can draw 2-D, but have challenges with 3-D building.

*Art elements: Line, space, color, texture, shape, form, proportion, rhythm, unity, balance, pattern, emphasis

YS:  Thank you for making time to speak with us about how STEM plays a part in teaching art. 


Here are some STEM/STEAM Articles and Resources For You:

STEAM Connect

Transformation Through Arts Integration-Edutopia

“A Young Picasso or Beethoven Could Become the Next Edison”-Michigan State University





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