ST. PETER — Most people have heard the acronym STEM, which stands for science, technology, engineering and math.
Fewer know about STEAM, which looks at STEM through the lens of the arts.
There's a national push going on to encourage the integration of arts and STEM, based on the idea that arts education is key to creativity; creativity spurs innovation; innovation is needed to create new industries; and new industries are the basis of economic growth, according to steam-notstem.com.
The St. Peter Public School district has been incorporating STEM into its curriculum in grades 3 through 12 for years, said Darin Doherty, South Elementary Early Learning Center principal. But there hasn't been that focus in grades K-2 at South, he said.
So last August a leadership team gathered for a fall retreat and dug into research associated with STEAM, and they liked what they were seeing. They've also contacted schools that have incorporated STEAM, including a primary school in Winona, to see how it looks in the classroom.
The STEAM Team, as the South educators call themselves, are ready to move forward. This summer they will work to align the curriculum to incorporate STEAM, and they will pilot the program during a couple of quarters next school year.
“It will be total integration,” Doherty said.
The plan is to have themes associated with the quarter, and then tie in that theme to every subject. For example, third quarter's theme could be bridges, and then bridges would be incorporated into physical education, art and other subjects.
One tool will be Imagination Playground soft, oversized building blocks that students can use to build a bridge, learning to problem solve along the way. The activity is an example of how art, math, technology, engineering, innovation and science merge.
“Every class at North gets 50 minutes of a STEM teacher a week. It's in a rotation with music and art. … So if I'm a classroom teacher at North, my students might have phy-ed one day, and the next day art, and the next day STEM, and so on,” Doherty said. “Over here, we (think) the best practice is to integrate the STEM through the curriculum and the arts.”