One Art Teacher’s Inspiring Take on Why Art Matters in STEM Education

One Art Teacher’s Inspiring Take on Why Art Matters in STEM Education

(View the photo gallery of the Concept Schools Student Art Exhibit at the US Department of Education)

Partial Summary of Speech

“Schools are turning their STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) to STEAM—add the A for Art! Art is now being seen as important in the science field because without creativity, how can you solve a problem in the science realm? Drawing skills, out-of-the-box thinking, and creativity that come from art classes and solving problems are driving scientific technology just as technology feeds art.Students in my art class theorize, hypothesize, experiment, and reflect about their projects, just as scientists do; only we think with regards to color theory, movement, emphasis, balance, and aesthetics. We are visual problem solvers. Every new canvas is an experiment.”

 

Full Speech

Thank you to the Department of Education for giving me the opportunity to speak for all art teachers of Concept Schools, and for allowing us this great venue for exhibiting our work.

I start my day by telling my daughter that mommy loves you the most, but I have to go and be with 480 of my other babies every day.

    I Am an Art Teacher

I am an art teacher.

My hands are rough as sandpaper,

And on a good day, rainbow colored.

You will find a spot of unidentifiable art substance on all my “good” work clothes.

I cringe at night about 125 projects not getting done

And none of them are mine.

I love a good new project.

I stop to take pictures of ducks in front of Walmart –

Everyone goes there –

And marvel, in Middlefield, at the buggies with horses driving into the parking lot of Giant Eagle.

I talk to myself, well, everywhere.

I see the world differently,

And sometimes march to the beat of a different…accordion.

I am an art teacher.

It is my job to make kids feel safe enough to express themselves

while at the same time making them push themselves to jump out of their skin,

test themselves to be …creative.

There are many catchy educational phrases about art:

“Art is all around us.”

“You can’t have smart S.M.A.R.T. without art.”

“Art leaves no child behind.”

I would like to discuss these with you today…

“Art is all around us.”

Some people might say, “You can’t teach art, it’s a talent, you have it or you don’t.” Some of my students have had that raw talent. They don’t need me. You see art is about practice, focus, trial and error. Ever heard of the “tortured” artist? (That’s why they call it PAINting!) My job as an art teacher is to get you to tap into your inner talent and find it! My other students are those who don’t have raw talent, they keep on trying, work really hard, and are amazed at what they can do when they thought they didn’t have raw talent, but found that if they just keep at it…they will succeed and be good at something new.

“You can’t have smart S.M.A.R.T. without art.”

For the first time at Concept schools this year, we’ve had a baseline and year end test, to make sure I can teach the lingo that goes with art. Students need to be art smart. How can students apply and use a word if they don’t know what it means? I have a story about testing that brings up a point about how IMPORTANT art is to the world. One freshman student received her pre-test back this year and started laughing, shaking her head and getting mad at me while I went over the test. I can assume this was partially because of her poor test grade, but her words showed that she didn’t understand how important art is. She said, “I don’t see why this matters, I’m not going to use any of this in my life.”

It struck my art teacher’s heart like a red hot poker. Art is all around us. Art is in the designs of the great building we are in today. Art is in the clothes that we wear, the bags we carry, the cell phones we can’t pry from students’ hands, the $200 shoes we need to have, the food packaging we eat from, the cars we drive, the movies we watch, the video games we play, our T.V.s, newspapers, magazines, and even the dinosaur called books. In all my twelve years of teaching, I’ve never had a student CHALLENGE art like that.

There are over 2.1 million art related jobs in the U.S. Only 10% of those are fine artists. 40% are designers, 17% performance artists. The rest are architects, photographers, producers, directors, and writers. This year, I’m proud to say that H.S.A. Cleveland is sending 4 of these future leaders of the art world to Cleveland Institute of Art. We also have an extremely talented student already there. I can’t wait to see her name on a file credit someday and feel the pride of a mother when I do. How can you possibly get through life without any art or design in your life?

“Art leaves no child behind.” – The motto of the Pennsylvania Art Education Association

The best part about art is that it holds hands with every other discipline. History can be seen through the art people have left. We know how and why they did things from their visual records. We know how they felt about themselves. Art brings English and writing or stories to life such as Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid or Disney’s new Frozen from his Snow Queen. Art is how we share any and all parts of our culture. Math…an artist is credited with developing linear perspective. Artists use grids to divide their works. And then there is finally…science. Science and art go hand in hand. As technology increases, so can what artists do with that technology to create more advanced art.

The impressionist and the Barbizon school just before them painted outdoors because the technology of paint packaged in tubes was available and so they could make a quick IMPRESSION of a scene. Before that artists made sketches and then go to their studio to mix the paints and work on it there. Trying to “remember” exactly what they saw and use math and perspective to recreate it. The invention of photography soon after changed everything. Not only could artists use this to RECORD life, they could experiment with chemicals…just like scientists. Artists use technology to describe their world visually.

Schools are turning their STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) to STEAM – add the A for Art! Art is now being seen as important in the science field because without creativity, how can you solve a problem in the science realm? Drawing skills, out of the box thinking, and creativity that come from art classes and solving problems are driving scientific technology just as technology feeds art.

Students in my art class theorize, hypothesize, experiment, and reflect about their projects, just as scientists do; only we think with regards to color theory, movement, emphasis, balance, and aesthetics. We are visual problem solvers. Every new canvas is an experiment.

My students may not remember the correct definition of value, but hopefully by the end of the year, they can all be proud about how much hard work, creativity, and emotion they put into making something beautiful that they will appreciate for the rest of their lives. Here, you see some examples of their work in our show.

I am an art teacher, and my greatest creations are not on the walls around you, my greatest creations are inside the students sitting around you here today.

Thank you, and enjoy the exhibit…and after you’re done talking to the kids…look at their works too.

Jennifer Cooper, Art Teacher, Horizon Science Academy Cleveland

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