STEAM into Math: Huntsville teachers receive free professional development in arts integration

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - This week, teaching teams from area schools and six local visual and performing artists gathered at The Arts Council to learn more about arts integration into math curriculum. The three-day workshop, titled 'STEAM Into Math: Igniting Greater Student Engagement Through the Arts,' featured Georgia-based environmental artist and master teacher Jeff Mather. The Arts Council received a grant from the Alabama State Department of Education to present the 3-day professional development opportunity focusing on the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) education model.

The expansion of the STEAM model into local schools is a main goal of the Arts Council’s Arts Education program. To introduce the public to STEAM, The Arts Council used their built-in platform at the Panoply Arts Festival. Following a year of planning, The Arts Council integrated STEAM activities at the annual festival in 2014, offering hands-on interactives for all ages to explore lessons in science and math. After that successful launch, the organization collaborated with community partners to offer 8 new activities for Panoply 2015, which were well-received by festival patrons and educational partners alike.

“The STEM fields and the arts grew up together in Huntsville as both were nurtured and developed by the German rocket scientists, their contemporaries and those who followed in their footsteps. Today the Huntsville metro region is fortunate to have an incredibly strong science, technology, engineering and math sector in addition to a vibrant arts scene,” said Allison Dillon-Jauken, executive director of The Arts Council. “But each day in our community and across the nation, we hear industry professionals across all sectors call for innovation. Through STEAM education, we can foster greater student engagement and creative problem-solving skills to set students on a path to develop innovative products, ground-breaking research and new solutions to 21st century problems.”

The STEAM Into Math workshop hosted one grade level’s complete teaching team and the arts specialist from three area schools. Six local visual and performing artists joined them in learning from Jeff Mather about methods for arts integration in math lessons. The educators and artists were encouraged to apply for fellowships to continue their partnerships throughout the school year. The Arts Council is working with community partners to develop assessment models for the 2015-16 school term as the teaching teams incorporate Mather’s strategies into their standard curriculum.

An accomplished sculptor and environmental artist based in Decatur, Georgia, Jeff Mather has served over 120 sites across the country as artist in residence. He has co-created and co-taught units in world history, science, math and special education. Additionally, Mather has also been the lead artist for the On Site/Insight Program, coaching multi-school environmental art partnerships in Atlanta Public Schools. He is the Artist-in-Residence at The Drew Charter School of Atlanta and serves as board president for the Atlanta Partnership for Arts in Learning.

“From creating tinker labs in schools to teaching standard curriculum educators and art teachers to work as a team, Jeff Mather is at the forefront of cross-curriculum arts infusion,” said Dillon-Jauken. “We’re proud to present this workshop and look forward to watching as Jeff helps local artists and educators expand their training to better empower students with the ability to think outside the box.”

Click here for more information on The Arts Council and their programs.