A Heretical View of the Arts from a Science & Math Educator

Posted by Greg Coppa On April - 29 - 2013
Greg Coppa

Greg Coppa

For decades, science and math educators have been the beneficiaries of government largesse, which has often been supplemented by corporate philanthropy. As a high school science teacher for three decades, I have often benefited from this policy along with my students and I have never questioned why it was so.

Many of my post-graduate courses were funded in whole or part by grants from the National Science Foundation. A good number of the many summer programs that I have attended were federally financed by one agency or another. Texts, videotapes, and computer software which I used were developed with government, corporation, or coalition assistance. And I have been very fortunate to have received honors and grants which have been sponsored by federal agencies and an assortment of professional societies.

I cannot warrant that every penny used to fund the variety of things just mentioned was spent wisely by the numerous government agencies and grant recipients. But overall I would have to say that from my vantage point, the taxpayers and corporate sponsors got their money’s worth.

People were trained, energized, and assisted so that they could become better teachers of science or math. Resources or teaching methods were developed which were often better than those previously utilized, or if they turned out to be worse, at least it was known for the future that that was the case. Failure was acceptable and looked at as part of the price for future success. Read the rest of this entry »

Akua Kouyate

Akua Kouyate

At a Congressional Briefing about the national dissemination of Wolf Trap’s Early Childhood STEM Learning Through the Arts (Early STEM/Arts) project—now in the third year of a U.S. Department of Education Arts in Education—Model Development and Dissemination grant—a District of Columbia Public Schools classroom teacher who had participated in an Early STEM/Arts residency approached me.

The teacher talked excitedly about one parent who came to her in tears of joy as she shared how her four-year-old explained to her that the sun does not rise and fall, but stays still while the earth orbits around the sun. The teacher also described how her children spent time in the dramatic play area of the classroom taking turns being the sun while directing their playmates and teachers to “orbit” around them.

What happened in that Wolf Trap residency that had such a strong impact on that classroom? I was able to see it myself a week earlier, when I’d visited the teacher’s classroom during an Early STEM/Arts session. This is what I witnessed:

Through the drama techniques of imaginary journey and utilizing sensory experiences, a classroom of four-year-old preschoolers prepares to embark on an outer space expedition. Before they leave, they put on their imaginary space suits, like the one that is projected on the big screen/smart board.  Read the rest of this entry »

500 Artists, Gardens Celebrate Florida’s 500th Birthday

Posted by Xavier Cortada On December - 17 - 2012

On Easter Sunday 1513, Ponce de Leon landed his three ships on the eastern shore of the peninsula where I live.

Claiming the land for Spain, he named the place La Florida, (for the Spanish word “flor” or flower) because of the lush landscape and because of the day the explorers arrived, Pascua florida, Easter.

As we approach the 500th anniversary of this encounter, I am working through the Florida International University College of Architecture + The Arts to develop FLOR500, a participatory art, nature, and history project that encourages participants to explore Florida’s natural wonder:

Indeed, I wanted to create an art project that allowed our inhabitants to understand the multicultural origins of our state, its fragile biodiversity, and its threatened coastlines. So I took the father of the Fountain of Youth mythology and his historic milestone as a point of departure to explore ways of rejuvenating “the Sunshine State.” Read the rest of this entry »

Eugene O’Neill’s Grant Writer Walks Into A Bar….

Posted by Bill O'Brien On December - 7 - 2012

Bill O’Brien

…and spots the dramatist hunched over in a corner booth, scribbling in his notebook. He walks over to the playwright, drops the first draft of Long Day’s Journey Into Night on the table and says, “That’s great, Eugene—but how am I supposed to prove economic growth or improved health and well-being with this?”

Obviously, this never happened. But if it did, it would be a great example of the conundrum we sometimes find ourselves in when we try to “scale up” societal benefits via the power of the arts. Identifying positive outcomes we’d like to pursue on policy levels at 20,000 feet can sometimes feel far removed from the missions being pursued by artists on the ground.

Trying to harness the power of the arts to provide broad public benefit in a strategized way is a good idea. The idea that our greatest American playwright should bend his art-making towards these aims is not. So if we’re trying to organize a way to share specific impacts of the arts so more people can benefit, how should we proceed?

In an art-science post called “The Imagine Engine!” on the National Endowment for the Arts’ (NEA) Art Works blog this spring, I stated that it may be possible for artists and scientists to “borrow freely from each other’s methods and practices and share insights with each other that they might be unable to find on their own.” This fall, through a program we’ve established via a partnership with the Department of Defense, we’re beginning to see evidence suggesting this hypothesis may be true. Read the rest of this entry »

STEM Promotes Science Instruction at the Expense of Humanities

Posted by Luis Martínez-Fernández On November - 30 - 2012

Luis Martínez-Fernández

We need more engineers and scientists. That has become the mantra of promoters of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) in education. There is nothing wrong with such a rallying cry, except that investment in STEM education usually comes at the expense of HAS (humanities, arts, and social sciences).

There is no arguing that inadequate science and mathematics education threatens the economic competitiveness of the United States.

It is no less true, however, that the neglect and systematic defunding of education in fields such as history, sociology and art history can have even more damaging repercussions. Damages include the creation of an uninformed citizenry and a concomitant erosion of democracy, and of a workforce unable to understand, communicate, and collaborate with people of different cultures in an increasingly diverse America and globalized world.

This, too, threatens America’s economic competitiveness.

The investment in science and technology, the desire for higher mathematical proficiency among school children, and implementation of programs to increase the number of graduating engineers are important goals but they are not a panacea.

Botanists and geneticists have succeeded at developing pest-resistant, high-yielding food crops but they have not been able to eradicate famine — world hunger is actually on the rise. Read the rest of this entry »

How Does Memory Work? And Why Should Marketers Care?

Posted by Clayton Lord On October - 3 - 2012

Clayton Lord

In October 1850, George Upton ducked into a Boston concert hall to hear a young, beautiful blond woman named Jenny Lind sing. Lind, who had made her career as an opera singer in England, was embarking on a U.S. tour, and the frenzy that surrounded each of her tour dates was extraordinary—the “Jenny Lind fever” riled up thousands and thousands of people at the 96 stops she would make down the Eastern seaboard.

Tickets sold for astronomical sums, and in the case of Boston, were oversold, meaning that the people outside the theatre rioted at the idea they would not get to see her. She was the Lady Gaga of her age and was considered to be the best singer of the 19th century by many—a “nightingale,” an “angel.”  Her appearances caused huge congestion—thousands of people would meet her at the station stops along the way.

Upton, 58 years later (!), would remember Jenny Lind “gliding down the stage with consummate grace” with a clarity that bespoke of the impact she had had on him:

“Her voice, as I remember it, was of full volume and extraordinary range, and had a peculiar penetrating quality also, because of its purity, which made its faintest tone clearly audible…her high notes were clear as a lark’s, and her full voice was rich and sonorous.”

Later, he would go on to say:

“I have borne her in my heart and memory across two generations and she remains for me still the one peerless signer I have heard on the concert stage.”

Unfortunately, Jenny Lind died just as the first audio recording instruments were being invented, so in 1908, when Upton wrote down his memories of Lind and her voice, the only residue that remained was what was in his mind.

Her art had transitioned into being only the memory of that art—the ephemerality of her voice having had no place, in those days, to become less ephemeral.

And yet 60 years later an old man at the end of his life could close his eyes and hear her voice, clear audible, crystallized in his mind even as the notes and the woman that sang them had long dissipated into nothing. What power. Read the rest of this entry »

Jessica Johnson

In Iowa’s Creative Corridor, we are fortunate to enjoy an excellent quality of life. That is largely due to the abundance of arts and culture in our community.

Nestled in America’s Heartland, Iowa’s Creative Corridor is the region along I-380 in east central Iowa including Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, and more than two dozen other municipalities. The Corridor is home to hundreds of arts organizations, multiple higher education facilities, nearly 30 Fortune 500 companies, and more than a dozen international organizations.

Iowa’s Creative Corridor brings innovation to the world through a unique fusion of art, science, and technology. Examples range from artistic endeavors like the world-famous Iowa Writers’ Workshop, which has resulted in 28 Pulitzer Prizes, to Rockwell Collins, a company that supplies the nation with aviation and information technology systems for defense and commercial avionics markets.

We live in a global economy where creativity is a key driver. The ability to attract and retain skilled employees is a central issue for businesses today. An increasing number of people choose where they want to live first and find a job in that area. Quality of life has never been so important to attracting talent, and the arts are significant to creating a quality of life that people seek out. In addition, the arts support inclusion in our communities by bringing people of diverse backgrounds together for shared experiences and by celebrating what makes us each unique and different.

Representing more than 150 arts organizations, the Iowa Cultural Corridor Alliance (ICCA) nurtures a sustainable cultural community in Iowa’s Creative Corridor through advocacy, promotion, professional development, and raising awareness of arts and culture opportunities. In a region with a spirit of creative innovation, ICCA works to foster collaboration within the arts community, as well as between arts organizations and the business community. Read the rest of this entry »

The Subversive Tack: Arts + Sustainability

Posted by Tara Aesquivel On April - 4 - 2012

Tara Aesquivel

Sometimes it feels like I lead a double life. Okay, pretty much every day.

Persona A: I’ve been a performing musician for most of my life; I have degrees in music and arts management; I devote what other people call “free time” to EAL/LA and Inner-City Arts, and; most of my social outings at arts events.

Persona B: I grew up in rural Missouri, where my grandpa was a farmer; I’m really concerned about the purity of our food supply; I try to buy clothes only made from natural fibers, and; my full-time job is with the Urban Sustainability program at Antioch University Los Angeles.

Deeply and intuitively, I know these two personas are not dissonant and they must have developed from the same place within me.

I have yet to eloquently describe how and why, but being around sustainability folks has given me some big clues. (Guess what? They’re mostly into the arts, too.)

One of these folks is Jenny Price. Whatever brief glimpse into Jenny’s bio I could share would be an under-representation of her awesomeness, so I’ll encourage you to read some of her work instead. Read the rest of this entry »

Building Commonly Valued Outcomes & Committing to the Journey

Posted by Jennifer Bransom On March - 14 - 2012

Jennifer Bransom

Confession time, I’m writing this second blog in advance of the first blog being published (this is how publication works). So, I am hoping we’ve had a widely successful conversation already about quality teaching and learning.

If we haven’t, then close your eyes, call forth the best dream conversation you can, attribute it to this blog, open your eyes, and let’s proceed.

In all seriousness, creating an open and rich conversation about quality is akin to facilitating a quality teaching and learning experience for and with students.

You need to set a climate where all feel comfortable sharing. This includes keeping the conversation focused and productive, while ensuring mutual respect among all parties.

You also need to generate engagement and investment by outlining clear expectations and offering multiple entry points for participants to stretch and extend their thinking.

Shared dialogue is another critical element. Not just talking, but listening, responding, and collaboratively using evidence and examples to construct new meaning, raises the quality of the work.

Skills, technique, and/or knowledge form the backbone of the work. They are the “what” we are teaching and learning. Read the rest of this entry »

The STEAM Camps Are Coming

Posted by John Eger On January - 30 - 2012

John Eger

It’s early in the new year but educators across the country are already making plans for the summer and they are thinking STEAM…with the arts playing a critical role.

As demand for a new workforce to meet the challenges of a global knowledge economy is rapidly increasing, few things could be as important in this period of our nation’s history than an interdisciplinary education that brings the arts and sciences together. Not surprisingly, so-called STEAM Camps signal an increased role for the arts as part of the new curriculum.

Most analysts studying the new global economy agree that the growing “creative and innovative” economy represents America’s salvation. The STEAM camps represent a totally new approach to the curriculum, and forge a new beginning in reinventing K-12 education.

Urban Discovery Academy, a charter school in San Diego has partnered with the University of California at San Diego (UCSD); Concordia University in Mequon, WI, together with the Chicago Lutheran Education Foundation (CELF); and the largest Lutheran school systems in Northern Indiana, and other educational organizations across the country are thinking about or have already started hosting STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) Camps to jumpstart education learning for the new economy.

STEAM is a direct response to STEM, the Bush Initiative called the America Competes Act, which authorized funds to help students earn a bachelor’s degree, math and science teachers to get teaching credentials, and provide additional money to help align K-12 math and science curricula to better prepare students for college. Read the rest of this entry »

Connecting Creativity, Innovation, & the Education System

Posted by Alyx Kellington On August - 9 - 2011
Alyx Kellington

Alyx Kellington

Running short on money for long-term big picture projects?

Is “Community Outreach” a part of your mission statement or goal?

Is working with the school district a maze (um, maybe talk to so and so, oh he’s no longer there, leave a message, come on in – but not today…), a closed door (we can’t afford the arts or can’t afford to take chances), or a money pit (what else can you give me?)?

Many arts and cultural organizations want to work in a specific school or with a certain population but encounter the roadblocks mentioned above.

If several arts organizations collaborate and each contributes one staff member one full day a month to one school for a year, you’ve got the beginning of a funded program.

In that creative spirit, five science-based organizations recently approached a Southeast Florida local arts agency (LAA) with this idea and commitment. Read the rest of this entry »

The 53rd Street Community Garden

The goal of the 53rd Street Community Garden was to create a sustainable community garden with colorful artistic components and outdoor classrooms. Students would utilize this outdoor space to discover scientific exploration of plants, insects, and animals, while fostering a respect for the neighborhood.

Although this project is still pretty fresh and constantly evolving, we have seen an amazing community effort in building a space where education, cultivation, and neighborhood come together. It has been beautiful to have a place where teachers can bring their classrooms outside to plant vegetables, where community members tend to their plots and interact with the youth, and where two schools that rarely socialize now have some common ground.

We are currently working with the school on plans for developing a culinary arts program, installing a gazebo, and scheduling a community harvest event. We are excited about expanding the school/community garden model, which we’ve named Growing Great Gardens (3G), to other Milwaukee Public Schools. Read the rest of this entry »