HOW TO INTEGRATE ART ACROSS THE CURRICULUM (PART TWO)
Cross-curriculum integration is crucial. Arts integration especially can provide an excellent way to discover how your students learn and foster their overall creativity. Increased creativity can lead to improvements in areas such as critical thinking, problem-solving, curiosity, and the willingness to try new things. Modifying the learning experience for different learning styles allows students to feel more confident in their abilities.
Many students believe from a young age they are either a STEM person or a creative person; left-brained or right-brained. This false dichotomy has embedded itself throughout education. Many believe that creative thinking and analytical thinking are opposites, but both styles of thinking are essential parts of all areas of education. For many students, it is the way STEM subjects are taught that turns them off.
In addition to this left brain vs. right brain mindset, a difficult part of arts integration is ensuring that curriculum and learning goals are met without sacrificing the creativity and flexibility of art. This can be a complex balancing act. To address this, we decided to split the topic over two blog posts.
This STEM focused blog is Part Two. Part One concentrates on non-STEM subjects.
I was lucky enough to have a few excellent science teachers in primary school, and I’m still fascinated by science. Teaching science to young children can be tricky because a lot of the concepts are advanced. This is further complicated by the fact that some primary school teachers don’t know much about science themselves. Focusing on the observation side of science rather than the data analysis side can be a great way to simplify concepts and keep kids engaged. One of the best ways to see kids excited about science is by finding ways to make it hands on. Experiments and ‘field work’ are great ways to do that. Experiments are a great way to make subjects like chemistry and physics more tangible. ‘Fieldwork’ is a fun way to relate big subjects like the environment and geology to the world students know. Recently, Ava had her first excursion in Prep at Bunyaville State Forest where they took a hands on approach to learning about the Easter Bilby in its natural habitat. The students walked through the bush, built nests for the animals and explored living things.
Robotics kits can be expensive, but they are an amazing way to foster a love of technology in kids that have come to take technology for granted. Designing and building functioning robots is a fantastic and fun way to remind kids that technology is awesome! Technology is everywhere. Ava uses it daily in her prep class by using the interactive whiteboard to move the parrot to the top of the screen on the IWB to note that she has arrived at school. iPad classes are becoming the norm as is coding classes and workshops at lunchtime.
Most primary-school-aged children are too young for true engineering education, but that doesn’t mean there is no value to introducing engineering based concepts. For primary aged kids, it might be more appropriate to think of it as integrating engineering into art. Have students think about the essential elements of building a structure. They can then sketch out and analyse designs. Encourage them to evaluate possible weak points and revise their plan until they are completely happy with it. Students can then construct their building using construction toys like Lego or Meccano. If it doesn’t work, let them discover and explore why and how to fix it in their next design.
Visualisation is already a significant part of maths education for young children. They find it easier to learn maths if they have a physical or visual prompt to interact with. When students get to a certain age, we remove the visualisations and provide ‘word pictures’ instead. These word pictures attempt to ground abstract concepts in the real world, but they rarely allow students to interact with the concepts as they can with more traditional visualisations. Allowing them to actualise concepts into the real world can help them understand. It may also cut back the number of times they ask ‘But am I ever actually going to use this?’
If you’re looking for some help, SciShow Kids is a YouTube channel that focusses on science education for children. The channel even has a playlist full of experiments aimed at kids! The CSIRO’s Creativity in Research, Engineering, Science and Technology (CREST) program has a lot of great resources, and so does Questacon. Questacon even has a function to search by curriculum code. If you are lucky enough to live near Questacon, you should find a way to visit as it is an amazing resource.
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