Full STEAM Ahead

Art Program Puts the ‘A’ in STEM

Orchard View sixth-graders, from left, Komal Patel, Erin Berrevoets and Emily Costigan glaze their fossil bowls

Students at Orchard View Elementary are getting hands-on experience learning how art can integrate with STEM education, the increasingly familiar term meant to highlight lessons in science, technology, engineering and math.

Designing an insect that is interesting to look at from all angles, for example, can help hone higher level thinking skills. Creating scaffolding using common objects shows students new ways of looking at conventional issues of balance and stability.

Orchard View Elementary art teacher Stephanie Cionca

Or comparing the rock cycle to the ceramic process can help develop aesthetic skills needed for high-tech STEM careers. And making posters that demonstrate the importance of clean water.

“What’s great is when one of them says ‘Water filtration? Hey, we’re doing that in science class,’ and I say ‘Yeah, that’s not a coincidence,'” explained art teacher Stephanie Cionca.

“It hits both our standards and it taps into what they’re picking up in their other subjects.”

Other Forest Hills schools such as Northern Trails ⅚ and Central Woodlands ⅚ also are integrating art into STEM lessons.

“This whole concept is really new to the kids, but I do think they’ll catch on over time,” Cionca said.

Fourth-grader Natalie Telman with her Henri Matisse-inspired portrait, which she used applied measurement and ratios to create
Fourth-grader Natalie Telman with her Henri Matisse-inspired portrait, which she used applied measurement and ratios to create

Sixth-grader Gabriel Bogart already seems to get it. He was creating a snake fossil in art class, because, he said, “I’ve held snakes. I know many types of snakes.”

And what has science class taught him about how they become fossils?

“A fossil is an animal that died,” Gabriel explained as he dabbed gray glaze on his creation. “Over thousands of years, water washes over the body, and chemicals in the water consume everything except the bones.

“After a while, the pressure of the water pushes the bones into the ground, but it also washes some of it away, which is the reason paleontologists can’t always find a whole skeleton.”

The artist knows what he’s talking about.

“Yes, I do,” Gabriel said.

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See some STEAM-integrated art projects at Orchard View

Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio

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