STEM, STEAM, STEM, STEAM, what does it all mean? (and yes, we were just as tickled about the rhyming as we're hoping you just were).
STEM, the collective term for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, became a focus in education in the early 2000s in reaction to statistics showing the United States falling behind other countries in those subjects in our education system and work force.
While there is no doubt that these four subjects are incredibly important to the progression of the country as a global leader, it turns out that art not only complements these subjects, but increases chances of success in STEM subjects as well.
Proponents for STEAM (with the added "A" for art), instead of simply STEM, demonstrate that the study and practice of art increases what educators call the Four Cs: creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking, all vital skills necessary for success in STEM fields.
In fact, Adam Grant found in his research for his book "Originals: How Non Conformists Move the World" that Nobel Prize-winning scientists were seven times more likely to have a hobby of visual art than their non-Nobel-Prize-winning peers, and 22 times more likely to be involved in a performing art than their non-winning peers.
And according to the Arts in Education Partnership’s 2013 report, Preparing Students for the Next America, The Benefits of an Arts Education, “Creativity is among the top ranking of 'in demand' qualities. 65% of Americans believe that creativity is central to the U.S.'s role as a global leader. 97% of business leaders agreed that creativity is of increasing importance in the workplace. However, 85% of employers seeking creative candidates had trouble finding qualified applicants.” Creativity is an essential precursor to innovation, which is the key to moving STEM fields forward.
There are plenty of ways you can challenge your children at home with fun and simple STEAM activities to keep their brains fresh during the summer, or just over the weekend, and they probably won't even know they're learning through the fun! We've rounded up a few of our favorites, let us know which ones you try and how you liked them!
1. Pendulum Painting
A pendulum is a weighted object that hangs from a pivot, or a bar, and swings based on it's gravitational pull. You and your child can experiment with the way pendulums move while creating pendulum paintings either inside or outside on the sidewalk. You can test different heights of the bar, different lengths of the string, or different amounts of paint in the cup and see what kind of designs these pendulums come up with. Full directions and even sidewalk paint recipe can be found here.
2. Shadow Art Science
Shadow art is a perfect summer activity for the kids - gets them creative and gets them outside. Check, check. Up the science factor by first discussing how the sun's position in the sky affects how our shadows look on the ground. This blog post here runs through the steps for the art project, but also suggests their other post, "Human Sundial Shadow Science Experiment" as the precursor science intro.
3. No-Cook PlayDough Sculpture Lab
Let the kids experiment with creating their own art materials! No-cook playdough is easy to make with simple ingredients you probably have in the house already (but things could get a little messy so prepare the space accordingly. Maybe this calls for an outdoor lab on a nice day). Set up a playdough science "lab" for the kids to conduct their experiments with mixing different materials to form the perfect no-cook sculpting clay, suggestions and recipes can be found here. Then encourage your kids to use their newly concocted substance to create fun sculptures.
4. Sharpie Tie-Dye Experiment
We've done a Sharpie and fabric tie-dying experiment in our summer camps before, but here's a great how-to to recreate this art experiment at home. After coloring a design in the fabric (or t-shirts for this particular project) with the sharpies, use rubbing alcohol to make the sharpies bleed and "dye" the fabric. This is a great way to explore primary and secondary color mixing as well.
These are just a few great ways to integrate STEM and art to create STEAM-focused activities that work both sides of the brain at the same time. If you're still looking for more ways to sneak art into your child's daily activities, check out our variety of summer art camp options with new projects every week for ages 5-14.
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