Pictured: Attendees exploring chemistry and biology through art with Helen Coleman. Photo by Jennie Beeson.
Blog by Cassie Howell
Thursday the 21st of February saw the first Peel ESTEAM Champion Teachers’ Network Meeting of the year. The theme for this meeting was “Putting the Arts into STEAM”.
While the elements of the more basic acronym STEM are usually well-known (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), the additional letters in ESTEAM are sometimes a source of curiosity. The additional E stands for Entrepreneurship, which was addressed in last year’s teachers’ network meeting titled 'Integrating entrepreneurship in the classroom’. The A stands for Arts, which at first glance may seem distant from the other ESTEAM subjects, but the connection between them is a lot stronger than it might seem.
Arts education from an ESTEAM perspective is not just about learning to use colour charts and practical artistic skills like painting and drawing. It is about deliberately embedding creativity in the learning of other subjects (especially in STEM areas), thereby equipping students with the skills, knowledge and attitudes required in the future of work.
"...when science and art collide, the results can be as unexpected as they are beautiful"
The lady to enlighten everyone to the connection between science and the arts was Helen Coleman. Helen combines her background in chemistry and botany with a passion for art to show that beautiful things result when science and art combine. Having finished her two-year residency at CASM last year, Helen has recently started working out of her Dye Pot Studio in Falcon.
Helen turned our teachers into students, engaging them in an activity exploring the chemistry of dyes extracted from native plants in the local area. The ‘students’ used these dyes on various media and then were guided through using various chemicals to alter the pigments to produce different colours. These changes result from chemical reactions and changes in pH, illustrating that when science and art collide, the results can be as unexpected as they are beautiful.
During the session laughter abounded, though our excellent teachers did not necessarily make for well-disciplined students. The kind of clapping usually heard in primary school classrooms was often needed to regain attention when everyone was having just a little too much fun.
The practical section was followed by a presentation by Lee-Anne Walley and Steve Fisher on taking multi-disciplinary learning into the environment. They shared their experiences working collaboratively (between Greenfields Primary School, Mandjoogoordap Dreaming and the Peel-Harvey Catchment Council) to deliver a range of excursions that provided students with an immersion in science, art and culture in the Peel region. These experiences make learning real for students, resulting in highly effective learning outcomes that have long-lasting impacts for everyone involved.
These two presentations both addressed the same main point:
1. Benefits of integrated learning – there are benefits for students’ learning through teaching in a way that highlights and explores connections and interactions between different curriculum areas.
2. Learning is best with practical elements - whether in the classroom or out, making learning a real experience engages students and can result in strong learning outcomes.
Kellee Aberg, Youth Engagement Officer from Mandurah Performing Arts Centre shared information about their education offerings for schools, which include the opportunity to come out to schools for arts incursions. Anyone who would like information about this can contact Kellee.
Thank you to Helen, Lee-Anne and Steve for their presentations and to all of the inspiring educators who attended.
For anyone who missed out, you can access the presentations here:
The Term 2 Teachers’ Network Meeting will be focussed on “Making Maths Magnificent”. If you are interested in attending, the details can be found here.
About the author:
Cassie Howell is in her fourth year studying Botany at UWA. Cassie is passionate about trees, science and education (particularly education about the science of trees) and plays footy when not being involved in those three things. After volunteering with Peel Bright Minds during 2018, she has recently taken on a formal role as PBM’s Communications and Events Intern.