Teachers from across SC learn the power of STEAM

July 2, 2013 at 5:25 pm

By Lee G. Healy
Published: Friday, June 28, 2013 at 2:51 p.m. on GoUpstate.com
Last Modified: Friday, June 28, 2013 at 2:51 p.m.

Teachers from across South Carolina spent time in Spartanburg this week learning how to infuse a little STEAM power into a popular education movement.

The group turned STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) into STEAM (the “A” stands for “arts”) during the Muse Machine Institute, presented by the Arts Partnership of Greater Spartanburg. The professional development opportunity focused on creativity and arts integration. The group of 30 represented teaching across all grade levels and subject areas.

“With the push towards STEM and now moving towards STEAM, we felt this was an area teachers needed to know about,” said Mary Lou Hightower, associate professor of art education at the University of South Carolina Upstate. “…Without that ‘A’ – that design thinking – it’s missing a major component that needs to be a part of it.”

Under the direction of Hightower and Randy Barron, a teaching artist with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, teachers contemplated questions such as how to demonstrate the water cycle through movement. Leaders said STEAM is a vehicle for incorporating creative thinking into all elements of instruction. Students learn the content – the components of the water cycle – but also are challenged with problem solving or thinking in a new way.

Stephanie Seay, a kindergarten teacher at Cannons Elementary School in Spartanburg District 3, said the approach especially appeals to kinesthetic or hands-on learners.

“I think it’s important to create that balance in our classrooms,” said Seay. “The arts give us such a vehicle for fostering those (creative-thinking or problem-solving) skill sets in our students.”

Linda Creasap, a music teacher at Pine Street Elementary in Spartanburg District 7, said the STEAM approach is a natural way for students to learn.

“I wanted to be a math major, but I changed to music. I see a lot of similarities,” Creasap said, comparing quarter notes to fractions. “It just goes together… Even the most inhibited child becomes more animated when you add music.”

On Wednesday, the group visited Milliken to see elements of STEAM in action. The Milliken Foundation also presented the Arts Partnership with a check for $87,000 to continue the STEAM institute.