President Obama, in the 2013 State the Union address, challenged the country to move forward simultaneously on two key educational fronts — providing high-quality preschool for all four-year olds and preparing a new generation of Americans in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) subjects. Teaching artists from the Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts and preschool educators in the Fairfax County (Virginia) Public Schools, with support from the U.S. Department of Education, are developing an innovative approach to achieving both of these national goals.
The Early Childhood STEM Learning Through the Arts (Early STEM/Arts) is pioneering an innovative, research-based arts integration model for early childhood learning — one that supports math teaching and learning through active, arts-based experiences in pre-K and kindergarten classrooms. Preschool teachers participating in the project receive professional development that enables them to apply arts-integrated lessons in their classrooms. Some report “a-ha!” moments as they work alongside Wolf Trap Teaching Artists such as Amanda Layton Whiteman (pictured above). “When I found out it was going to be math, I was saying, oh jeez, this is going to be hard,” said one teacher. But after being involved with the artist and the arts-integrated approach, she “realized that math is everywhere.” And incorporating the arts into her everyday lessons “helps you reach every child.”
With the help of a $1.15 million Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination grant from the Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII), the Early STEM/Arts program will disseminate evaluation results in early 2014. In the meantime, Wolf Trap Regional Programs in 16 locations nationally are gearing up to implement the new model in the 2013-14 school year.
Read OII’s “Wolf Trap Institute Unites the Arts and STEM in Early Childhood Learning” to hear more stories from those at the Wolf Trap Institute.