STEAM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, & Math at the Cummer Museum

Students are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement.

More than twice as likely to graduate college compared to peers without it.

Five times less likely to drop out than peers without it.

With statistics like these, it should be easy to agree that the influencing factor is essential to early education. The factor in question? Arts education.
The term STEAM, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics, was developed by teachers who realized that an important area of learning that fosters critical thinking and creativity and can be learned through various art courses, was missing from many curricula. In 2013, Duval County Public Schools welcomed an inventive program called the STEAM Cultural Passport, building on a program in the Miami-Dade County Public School district. The program was brought to Duval County by then Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti, and has become a staple in the effort to bring arts and culture access to Title I elementary school students. Dr. Vitti’s commitment to serving the “whole child” was a driving force behind the program.
The STEAM Cultural Passport Program has partnered with a number of cultural organizations across Duval county since its inception. Each partner was assigned a grade-level that would receive two school tours to the specific organization during each school year.
For the 2017-2018 program year, the Cultural Passport partnered with the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, FSCJ Artist Series, Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, Jewish Community Alliance (JCA), Junior Achievement of North Florida, Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Jacksonville, Museum of Science and History (MOSH), St. Johns Riverkeeper, and Tree Hill Nature Center.
To be categorized as a Title I elementary school, forty-percent of enrolled students must come from households that are considered low income. With this designation, schools are given access to resources and services from federal, state, and local levels to help students succeed in and out of the classroom. For the 2017-2018 school year, a hundred and thirty-one schools in Duval County received Title I status, including eighty elementary schools. The STEAM Cultural Passport was able to reach more than seventy-thousand kindergarten through fifth-grade students in eighty of these schools.
The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens has been an enthusiastic participant in the program since its inaugural year, and has remained a partner through the 2017-2018 school year. Throughout these five years, the museum has worked with students in kindergarten, second, and fifth grade.
In terms of the field trips themselves, the Cummer followed the same general format as its regular school tours, following state and county curriculum standards, while amending some sections to align more directly with STEAM standards. Trained docents and museum educators lead students in meaningful discussions in the galleries and gardens, teach hands-on art projects, and help students explore Art Connections, the museum’s interactive center.
One specific area of the school tour format that is modified for STEAM Cultural Passport tours is the “hands-on art project,” or studio portion of the tour. While in a general school tour students may create an art project centered around the elements of art, a STEAM Cultural Passport tour may create a project that centers on design, a more STEM-integrated subject. In the end, the goal of STEAM field trips to the Cummer Museum is for museum educators to uphold and fortify what teachers are already doing in their classrooms.
At the end of the school year, surveys are given to teachers and staff members who participated in the program. At the end of the 2017-2018 school year, survey results showed that the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens was rated 4.24 out of 5 in terms of overall program quality.
And while the Museum’s STEAM programming was no doubt beneficial to students’ learning, the program also gave students from low income households access to cultural organizations that they otherwise may not have been able to visit. This supplemental arts education made possible by STEAM Cultural Passport is invaluable to the development of students’ personal and educational skills.
One of the main goals of incorporating STEAM learning principles early in life is to help children develop into well-rounded adults, with skills incredibly useful for a variety of jobs and for life in general. When arts courses are incorporated into the courses included in STEM, students receive an even more enriching education which helps them to develop skills in logical reasoning, arithmetic, communication, collaboration, problem solving, and creativity. While the arts are considered a core subject by federal No Child Left Behind standards, two-thirds of public school teachers believe that arts are being crowded out of the school day by other subjects.
While adding the “A” to STEM may not seem necessary, it’s value is far-reaching. As described on a STEAM Education website, “The A stands for the broad spectrum of the arts going well beyond aesthetics; it includes the liberal arts, formally folding in Language Arts, Social Studies, Physical Arts, Fine Arts, and Music that each shape developments in STEM fields.”
The importance of STEAM education lies in the converging ways of thinking students learn through it. STEM-based learning has been praised for teaching students skills in critical thinking, problem solving, innovation, entrepreneurship, and teamwork, among other practical skills which have historically been most valuable in the workforce.
And while these STEM skills are important for any young person to learn, the world is changing. According to the Facts and Figures Navigator distributed by Americans for the Arts, seventy-two percent of business leaders say that creativity is the number one skill they are seeking when hiring.

Read MoreWritten by Samantha Ahnen

Author: Arbus

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