Posts Tagged ‘creativity’

Adding an A to STEM…Full STEAM Ahead!


As professionals in the field of education, we all know the term STEM. This is a movement that exposes students to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. It promotes the teaching of these disciplines’ theories and content with a hands-on learning approach. The goal is not only to provide students with a deep, multidisciplinary understanding but to foster understanding of STEM concepts in the real world.

If a letter were added to the STEM acronym, what would the best choice be? In this video, Harvard University education professor Howard Gardner has a definitive answer: “I have no hesitation in saying we need to add the letter A….An education devoid of arts…is an empty, half-brain kind of education.”

To the point.

In that same video, Yale Child Study Center lecturer Erika Christakis isolates perhaps the core reason that adding the Arts to STEM education is so important: “The arts hav[e] something really essential to say about the human condition, just as science does.”

Let’s First Look at STEM.

We are humans living in a rapidly developing society. In no point in recorded human history has there been as many innovative technologies bringing people together. The disciplines represented in STEM—Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math—are integral to the technologies we use every day—and the tools we will use tomorrow. As stated in the State Idaho Department of Education’s What Is STEM Education?, “Math is the language; Science and Engineering are the processes for thinking; all this leads to Innovation.”

Young people—students—have known no other world. It is in all of our best interest to teach, encourage, and support them in a STEM environment.

So Why STEAM?: Arts and the Human Condition

Knowing and understanding the significance of STEM in our schools may not, at first glance, lead us to recognize the significance of adding an A to this multidisciplinary approach to education.

So we must ask: Exactly what do the arts add to our lives?

Consider what the arts encompass. Music, painting, sculpting, theater, literature, architecture, fashion, and so much more. Just as new technologies bring us together and help create our shared experiences, the arts span time to connect us with each other and ourselves. Consider briefly Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. How many people have viewed this painting across the centuries and have been moved by its beauty and brilliance? Across time and cultures, Mona Lisa created a shared, communal experience that impacted 16th-century viewers in much the same way is it does today.  An encounter that becomes both a personal and shared experience.

In fact, at the foundation of all artistic endeavors are creativity, personal experience, and shared experience. It is the same with newfound technologies. Why is this important? Consider what Mae Jemison—an astronaut, doctor, art collector, and dancer—had to say on the topic in this transcript of her 2009 TED Talk on teaching arts and science:

“The difference between science and the arts is not that they are different sides of the same coin, even, or even different parts of the same continuum, but rather they’re manifestations of the same thing….The arts and sciences are avatars of human creativity. It’s our attempt as humans to build an understanding of the universe, the world around us….[S]cience provides an understanding of a universal experience, and arts provides a universal understanding of a personal experience.”

STEAM in Action

Creativity, personal experience, and shared experience are evident in stories and videos of STEAM in action. When creative writing is incorporated as the A in this Science of Superheroes Lesson, students are able to make connections between the science of flight—which was the STEM component of the lesson—and creating a superhero character and story, which was the A component of the lesson. The video highlights the many layers of involvement and collaboration STEAM can engender.

Math concepts, such as number lines, counting, and fractions, are merged seamlessly with interactive theater play in Staging STEM, a video that also conveys the joy students attain when engaging in STEAM activities. The personal and shared experiences, generated by both personal and communal creativity, become essential to and integrated with the learning experience.

Education should be exciting, engaging, uplifting, and inspiring…and it should provide an outlet for creativity and both personal and shared experiences. The multidisciplinary STEAM educational model certainly is an approach worth exploring.

Explore more about STEM and STEAM in this infographic from the University of Florida:

STEAM, not just STEM Education Infographic
Find more education infographics on e-Learning Infographics

Book-Inspired Halloween Costumes

Halloween goes hand in hand with creativity. What better complement to creativity than making a Halloween costume inspired by your favorite books? In honor of all the wonderful works that have displayed in e-readers, sat atop nightstands and rested on bookshelves, I’m inviting you to get creative with a book-inspired Halloween costume this year.

So many of our favorite stories became our favorites because of memorable characters like the Mad Hatter in “Alice and Wonderland” or Mr. “Cat in the Hat” himself. Even comic book superheroes have become popular choices, keeping up with the classic nostalgia. Novels also pose great options, allowing you to think boldly and unconventionally. I know from watching my mom create handmade Halloween costumes for herself and my sister and I growing up that it doesn’t take much to make something that stands out. I’ve seen her transform into Pinocchio, the Mad Hatter, the Bride of Frankenstein, Thing 1 and countless others. All you need is an idea and an eye for replicating from your very own closet. If you don’t want to make your own, there are plenty of low-cost character costumes at your local shop waiting to be worn too. Dressing up in a Halloween costume isn’t just for kids and teens. It’s the perfect opportunity to express enthusiasm for beloved book villains and heroes. Here are a few book-inspired costume ideas that can be made easily and quickly. Happy Halloween!

Mad Hatter (Alice in Wonderland)

Photo of my mom as the Mad Hatter. (Credit: Jaclyn Rosansky)

Photo of my mom as the Mad Hatter. (Credit: Jaclyn Rosansky)

While you may think this costume is difficult and time-consuming to make, I can tell you this is not so. Last Halloween (2014), I helped my mom create this costume using only pieces from her closet. We used layering techniques in her clothing to get her the Mad Hatter look. She wore a bright blue pair of tube socks, a black top hat from a previous Halloween costume. And I did her makeup complete with orange eyebrows. How did I give her orange eyebrows, you ask? Eyelash glue, cotton balls, and temporary orange hair spray. I pulled apart cotton balls to create an eyebrow shape, sprayed them in the hair spray and after drying, glued them to her own eyebrows with the eyelash glue. The final result? A Mad Hatter costume that was both cheap and simple to make.

Cat Woman (Based off of the comic book)

Photo Credit: "Cat Woman 4" by Joe Colburn. nodomain1 / Foter / CC BY

Photo Credit: “Cat Woman 4” by Joe Colburn. nodomain1 / Foter / CC BY

Cat-inspired costumes are great because they don’t take much to make. Whether it’s Cat Woman or Cat in the Hat, all you need is some makeup, black clothing and possibly a few accessories. For this costume, a pair of black leggings, a black shirt and black heels or boots can give the look of this superhero. To make cat ears, an old wire hanger bent into the correct shape and a way to attach them could be a clever option. Even a headband with cardboard cat ear cut-outs attached could work. As for the black mask, you can find one at the local craft store or paint one directly on your face with makeup.


Photo of my mom as Pinocchio. (Credit: Jaclyn Rosansky)

Photo of my mom as Pinocchio. (Credit: Jaclyn Rosansky)

The main character of this childhood story was a puppet with a knack for lying. This is another costume my mom made one year, and I was impressed with how well she captured Pinocchio’s essence without spending much or devoting a ton of effort. Once again, my mom raided her closet and found red shorts, an appropriate shirt, and she made her own suspenders. Buttons and felt cut to size gave the right look. A piece of scrap fabric was used for her collar and eyeliner was used to draw on her puppet lines. For her nose? She attached two rubber finger protectors together and wore them on her nose. It still surprises me how well it stayed on!

What book-inspired Halloween costume will you make or wear this year? Share in the comments below or Tweet us at #ProQuest.

The STEAM Movement and the Future

Fractal Art by werner22brigitte [Public Domain] via Pixabay


STEAM is a movement that integrates an A for the arts into the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) initiative from the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Education.  STEAM education was created in 2006 by former teacher Georgette Yakman.

The Creative Component

Advocates of STEAM contend that there should not be a dichotomy between science and art. Instead, art should be seen as a driver of creativity that can foster innovation and spark engagement and learning in science education.

“Engineers, inventors, and designers produce drawings as part of their creative process. They draw to work out and refine concepts and details. They draw to persuade. They draw to give direction. And they draw to record their ideas and to learn from others.”–Doodles, Drafts, and Designs, Industrial Drawings from the Smithsonian

Pathway to Economic Growth

John Maeda, president of the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, sees STEAM as a pathway to fostering U.S. economic growth. Maeda, writing in Edutopia, has said that “[d]esign creates the innovative products and solutions that will propel our economy forward, and artists ask the deep questions about humanity that reveal which way forward actually is.” He cites Apple as a well-known example of a company in which design is crucial to the success of technology.

Tried and True

The idea of integrating the arts and sciences in education is nothing new. Leonardo da Vinci, for example, was not only a famous Renaissance artist but was also a scientist, engineer, and inventor. In fact, he used his skills as an artist to draw his mechanical ideas.

“If someone had told Leonardo da Vinci, Newton, or Galileo that the study of science in the 21st century would be separated from the creativity of the arts or the social, cultural, and historical insights into human behavior offered by the humanities, they would have wondered what scientists had done to make the world disrespect them so much.  It’s an odd idea to separate out different kinds of knowledge that inspire and enrich one another in the real world and the virtual too.” – Duke Professor Cathy Davidson

Future of STEAM

Mathematic and scientific knowledge fuel the mechanics of invention, but what fuels the innovative aspect, the design, and uniqueness? Imagination. And imagination comes with a love for the arts. As long as there is a need for invention and innovation, there will be a need for the arts.

A recent Washington Post article on arts inclusion in the STEM program argues this point well. Even with reports of the U.S. economy in need of more scientists and the like, it’s important to remember that the arts are a fundamental piece of what makes scientific advances as a whole.

Without the arts, the STEM program remains stagnant. Tomorrow’s innovators deserve the chance to innovate.

Links for Teachers and Librarians

Over the past several years, more and more schools have begun integrating the arts into their STEM curricula. Below are six links you can use to incorporate STEAM into your classroom or library:

Websites for Students

Are your students working on a STEAM project and need a little inspiration? Below are five editorially selected websites from ProQuest’s SIRS Issues Researcher.

If you’ve implemented a STEAM curriculum in your classroom or library, let us know what you’re doing in the comments section below or tweet us at #ProQuest.


Makerspace Inspiration for March

Photo Credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/52926035@N00/12229383703">Makerfying your library</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">(license)</a>

Sketchnotes from a session at the Ontario Library Association Super Conference on “Makerfying Your Library.”
Photo Credit: Sally Wilson via photopin (license)

Creativity not only exercises your brain, it’s good for your overall well-being. Playing, creating, tinkering, experimenting, inventing and programming are just some ways children and adults alike can exercise their “making” powers. All the tools and materials we might use to make a creative project shine are stored collectively in what are coined makerspaces, and they come in all varieties and sizes. Makerspaces are DIY places to collaborate, co-create and innovate. Whether you want to build a makerspace for the classroom, the library, on a bus or even at home, the possiblities for doing so are endless. There’s really no wrong way to build a makerspace, so we’ve pulled together some different types to inspire you during the month of March. Perhaps the start of spring will also be the start of a new makerspace!

1. Mobile Makerspaces: Around the world, makerspaces are becoming traveling ‘create’ spaces that can be housed on buses, RVs or basically anything that can be transported easily to a new location. Equipped with anything from a 3-D printer to Play-Doh and wire, you can find an online starter list of existing mobile makerspaces. There are currently over 1,000 Meetup groups in various countries just for makerspace enthusiasts.

"FryskLab" by lauwersdelta35 via Flicker, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Children Working in a Makerspace at an Innovation Center in The Netherlands
Photo credit: “FryskLab” lauwersdelta35 via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

2. Hackspaces: Hackspaces often focus a lot on technology, computers, electronic art and engineering. You might find a combination of electronic gadgets, hardware, science experimentation and digital art creation here. The hackerspaces wiki contains an extensive list of current locations in the U.S. and beyond.

3. Fab Labs: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was an integral collaborater in making the first fab lab come to life. By definition, one of the most important aspects of making a fab lab is having open access. Materials should be easily available and the fab lab itself should promote free expression. The FabFoundation is a wonderful resource for first-time and experienced fab lab founders.

4. Makerspaces at Home: What if you could convince a student to make his or her own toys or games? Building a makerspace makes that possible. Whether you need a space for making electronic-powered robots, dolls, board games, glow-in-the-dark Play-Doh or a digital piece of art, it doesn’t take much to get a personal Makerspace started. The dollar store is a great starting point as well as collecting common items like batteries, tools, cardboard, wires, crayons, paper and beads. Sometimes the best materials turn out to be the ones you forgot you had. Scholastic recently featured an article on how to build a mini makerspace at home.

5. Library Makerspaces: Libraries have always been cool. What makes them even cooler is the way they have latched on to the Makerspace Movement. Academic and public libraries alike have shown maker enthusiasm and some of them can be found Libraries & Maker Culture: A Resource Guide. Chances are there are even more you may not know about.

Photo Credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/63392151@N02/14167513417">Innovate @ Your Library - BCPL</a> via <a   href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">(license)</a>

Innovate @ Your Library – BCPL
Photo Credit: Baltimore County Public Library via photopin (license)

6. Makerspaces at School: Makerspaces at school are wonderful because they are a little bit of everything wrapped into one space–part woodshop, part art station, part science lab. Since students are already at school, they will be able to collaborate with each other easily. Deciding some of the basics like where to build one, when to allow use and what to include are important decisions that are made easier with the help of how-to articles. Edutopia features an entire section devoted to Maker Education.

7. Makerspaces To-Go: Teacher Librarian and Technology Integration Specialist Shannon Miller recently shared a blog post on her Makerspace To-Go. Materials including books, crafts, markers, Legos and more were able to be stored in her oversized bag and she also set up a Makerspace Mobile by storing a collection of apps for makerspace play on her iPad.

What type of makerspace inspires you? Let us know in the comments below or Tweet us at #ProQuest

Why the Arts and Humanities Matter

What skills do students most need to succeed in the twenty-first century? And how can we best help them acquire those skills? In today’s global economy, a well-rounded education that encompasses the arts and humanities is vital. According to Daniel H. Pink, author of A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, success in tomorrow’s workplace will depend on mastering qualities that cannot be easily outsourced or automated; in other words, right-brain traits such as creativity, empathy, and the ability to inspire and persuade.

SIRS Renaissance was created out of the belief that the arts and humanities aren’t a luxury but a necessary part of a complete education. From literary criticism and profiles of prominent authors to interviews with contemporary painters, filmmakers, poets, dramatists, composers and more, SIRS Renaissance promotes self-directed research, deep and meaningful engagement, critical thinking and an expanded worldview. Containing editorially-selected articles that support and align to the Common Core standards, as well as full-color graphics, including art reproductions, photographs and illustrations, SIRS Renaissance helps students engage their “right brain” and develop the knowledge and creative skills that will give them the edge in the twenty-first century workplace.