Sunday, October 26, 2014

STEAMED UP: Science and Art Every Day

Nationally, there is a concern about learning associated with an important group of letters - STEM - Science, Technology, Engineering, Math.  These words are often associated with intelligence or "things smart people know how to do".  Children are already natural discoverers and given the chance to manipulate and explore, with guidance and direction (see blog post on Boss of the Paints) can begin to formally access the world of STEM.   Ok, time to add another letter  - "A" and ta da! -  STEAM - we add ART. What difference can this make for young children?  A lot.

Children, families, and teachers across Somerville have a real, live STEAM opportunity right at our front door - The Beautiful Stuff Project.  Marina Seevak has a storefront at 137 Broadway in East Somerville where teachers can come and get "stuff", where teachers can bring children, and children can visit with their families.   The photos below are from Marina's work with teachers at the Capuano and at the Somerville YMCA Preschool.  Children are exploring balance, size comparison, spatial relationships, organization, sorting & classifying, design sensibility, sculpture and much more.  And, they are talking and laughing - and we know children learn while they play.

It is not unusual for children to work for at least 20-30 minutes or more as they experiment and create, strengthening their powers of concentration and building perseverance.
But before playing around with Beautiful Stuff, children are given a careful demonstration at a group meeting - how to remove materials from the box, how to use materials respectfully, how to repeat, experiment, troubleshoot.  Then they move to tables where they explore objects in their box, on a mat that helps define their space and keeps materials organized.  And this is process not product - children build and then put the materials back in the box - not gluing or taping actually extends the process. Often, a Beautiful Stuff shelf is set up in the classroom and these explorations become part of choice time (see photo above). Class books of children's creations are also made as a literacy connection. 

Marina Seevak demonstrates how to choose boxes
from the Beautiful Stuff shelf in the classroom
Parents, ask your children about Beautiful Stuff.  When Ms. Seevak comes to classrooms she brings tickets to her storefront where folks can come and play and take a bag of stuff home. 

Teachers, you are welcome to visit the store on M-Th 12-6 and can also get ideas for art and science projects and investigations that you can try out in the studio and then in your own classroom.

All can visit virtually on Facebook:

Also, an interesting article from the New York Times this week about the building blocks of a good early childhood program and the false choice of play or academics - we need both and they can happen simultaneously. "Classrooms that pulse with meaning play are our smartest investment."

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