Professional Artists as Collaborators

I went back and forth on whether to write this post at this point in time. You can see that I have two recent posts on collaboration, but then I left the subject to write about grading. I hesitated to write on this topic because I haven’t actually collaborated with a professional artist outside of academia yet. However, I have stuck my toe in the water and it feels nice, so this post is mainly forward-looking.

Wolf Trap National Park sign (Gregory F. Maxwell)  Did you know that the United States has a national park for the Performing Arts?

Wolf Trap National Park sign (Gregory F. Maxwell) Did you know that the United States has a national park for the Performing Arts?

So far, I’ve considered this type of collaboration for a professional development program supporting K12 teachers. As part of some very preliminary planning, I decided to take an informal poll of several of my artist friends and acquaintances to see if they might have an interest in helping to lead teacher-training workshops. I asked two dancers, a writer, a writer/actor/director, a cinematographer, a singer/guitarist/song-writer, and graphic designer their thoughts. To my great shock and surprise, every one of them expressed an interest!

So, the main challenge here is probably not recruiting interested artists. Rather, the challenge is likely to be in paying them properly. For each of these people, time is money and any commitment outside of their art must, understandably, make economic sense.

In K12 schools, there are many Artist in Residence programs. The Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts (http://www.wolftrap.org/Education/Institute_Professional_Development.aspx) supports residencies for artists in early-childhood classrooms with a focus on STEM education in particular. As I mentioned in an earlier post (https://stemtosteamihe.wordpress.com/2013/07/14/sunny-days/) there are some reasons to see these early childhood models as relevant to higher education. I can see an artist leading a workshop or a series of workshops for faculty professional development at my university sometime in the near future.

Well, that’s all I have to say on that subject for now. Maybe you have something to contribute?

P.S. I should mention that many professional artists could use assistants. You may want to send some of your STEM students their way.

Advertisements

Acting/Science Mashup

Caricature of a mad scientist drawn by J.J.

Caricature of a mad scientist drawn by J.J.

Let’s face it. Science has an image problem. Part of that problem arises out of a complicated history, but much of it can be attributed to the fact that scientists can have a hard time communicating science in a clear and compelling manner.

The Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science (http://www.centerforcommunicatingscience.org) uses the art of acting (as well as other techniques) to improve science communication. Located in the Stony Brook University School of Journalism (https://journalism.cc.stonybrook.edu), faculty members include highy-respected theater professionals, journalists, writers, and filmmakers, as well as the extraordinary Mr. Alda (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000257/). Through summer institutes on-site and customizable workshops held at locations around the United States, the Center trains researchers, professors, health care practitioners, and graduate students to more effectively teach complex scientific ideas to a wide variety of audiences. Improvisation plays a central role in this training, helping participants to understand how they’re heard by people who lack the same expertise.

Could a collaboration with your university’s theater department improve teaching? What about student presentations?

Mr. Alda hosted PBS’ American Scientific Frontiers (http://www.pbs.org/saf/) for more than a decade and is deeply committed to public education in science.  The actor, director, screen-writer and author is best known for his work on M*A*S*H and The West Wing.

(See also an earlier related post about Nancy Houfek, Head of Voice and Speech for the American Repertory Theatre: https://stemtosteamihe.wordpress.com/2013/05/11/act-like-you-mean-it/)

South Korean Leadership on STEAM

The Australian Council of Learned Academies, in an effort to build Australia’s STEM workforce and increase international competitiveness, recently commissioned reports on similar efforts in 24 countries, including the Republic of Korea (aka South Korea or Korea) (http://www.acola.org.au/index.php/stem-consultants-reports  – a great resource if you are asked to consider the future of STEM in your own region). This particular report (www.acola.org.au/ACOLA/PDF/SAF02Consultants/Consultant%20Report%20-%20Korea.pdf) was authored by Jae-Eun Jon, Korea University (http://www.korea.edu) and Hae-In Chung, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities (http://www1.umn.edu/twincities/index.html).

Banpo Bridge with a rainbow fountain over the Han River in Seoul (Gu Gyobok)

Banpo Bridge with a rainbow fountain over the Han River in Seoul (Gu Gyobok)

Therein they describe the efforts of the Republic of Korea in the area of STEAM. While Korean students have excelled in math and science, and the country has a need for increased numbers of STEM-capable graduates, interest in the STEM disciplines is weak. To remedy this problem and foster creativity, beginning in August 2011 the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology restructured the entire Korean STEM curriculum around the idea of STEAM. The amount of math content was reduced by 20% to allow time for STEAM. There have been many opportunities for associated professional development, and two new STEAM schools for the gifted and talented crowd are scheduled to open by 2016. Additional schools have been selected at STEAM Leader Schools to pilot the full STEAM curriculum, and teacher study groups have been formed. Universities and Colleges of Education are expected to develop curricula that will train future teachers in STEAM and to carry out STEAM research.

Sunny Day!

Cookie Monster, a philosophical Muppet who now enjoys cookies in addition to a well-balanced diet, comes out to greet Marine families during a USO performance of Sesame Street Live aboard Marine Corps Air Station New River, April 28. During the show, Cookie Monster gave advice to Marine families about moving away from friends.

Cookie Monster, a philosophical Muppet who now enjoys cookies in addition to a well-balanced diet, comes out to greet Marine families during a USO performance of Sesame Street Live aboard Marine Corps Air Station New River. During the show, Cookie Monster gave advice to Marine families about moving away from friends.

This year Sesame Street (http://www.sesamestreet.org), a long-running children’s television program grounded in education research, has followed a curriculum in STEAM!!

Okay, you may wonder, why should educators at the university level care?

Here’s why we should care:

  1. Universities prepare early childhood education teachers. If their university-level STEM training includes STEAM, early childhood teachers can build on the Sesame Street STEAM curriculum in their own classrooms.
  2. We do and will continue to have STEM majors who have experienced STEAM at the preK-12 level. We can take advantage of these funds of knowledge in STEAM that our students bring to the classroom.
  3. Pre-K and university efforts in STEAM bear remarkable similarities, as evidenced in the Sesame Street curriculum document that supported this year’s work (STEM+A Curricular Seminar Summary: Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Art). In many passages one could simply swap the word student for the word child to produce something that looks like an argument for STEAM in higher ed. Quite a few of the examples of content (not included here) are also adaptable to the university level. Greater communication across all levels of teaching and learning will move us forward faster.

Check out these quotes from the document:

“We can also help make the connection between scientific and innovative thinking to clearly demonstrate that the Arts can be used to inspire learning and teach STEM concepts. These process skills enable children to formulate thoughts into investigable questions, solve problems, and allow for the learning of new concepts and “big ideas” to become apparent and meaningful.”

“We can also help make the connection between scientific and innovative thinking to clearly demonstrate that the Arts can be used to inspire learning and teach STEM concepts. These process skills enable children to formulate thoughts into investigable questions, solve problems, and allow for the learning of new concepts and “big ideas” to become apparent and meaningful.”

Articulation across all levels of education, including high quality children’s programming, is important as we work to improve STEM teaching and learning.

Plus, who doesn’t love Sesame Street? Tell me, who’s your favorite muppet??

[While Sesame Street is a driven by a whole-child curriculum, they revise their curriculum to highlight specific educational needs. To address these needs, they invite advisors (academics, researchers, teachers, parent engagement professionals, and others) to join them for a curriculum seminar in which they present their research and experience. Colleagues at Sesame Workshop were kind enough to share with me the confidential curriculum document that resulted from the Season 43 curricular seminar on STEAM. Thank you, Sesame Workshop!]