Making the STEAM


During the last month of the school year we had the opportunity to collaborate on a STEAM project that integrated Scott Westerfeld’s (@ScottWesterfeld) YA bookLeviathanand it opened my eyes to a new genre of literature and art calledSteampunk. This genre embodies much of what educators consider “making.” It is the integration of technology, but not a current technology, rather an older steam-powered technology. What really increased my excitement was the level in which the student bought into the project. There were many facets to this project, but I am going to focus on the Art portion as this project created many opportunities for the kids to unlock their inner creativity.

I do not claim to be a STEAM or Maker expert, but I do believe that we need to give the kids an opportunity to create as part of their learning process which is why when I plan a project I want to leave the outcome open for the kids’ interpretation. The outcome for this project was to create something inspired by the bookLeviathanusing the steampunk genre.

Example 1: Art is clothing design.

Ali G. models her top and third arm which is holding her phone.

After while reading Leviathan and researching steampunk Ali discovered the fashion side of this genre. Using scrap vinyl we received as a donation from a local upholstery shop she sketched out her design. Whereas, she is only 12, she did seek out the assistance of an adult who helped her with the sewing. She added the large metal buttons to give it more of a steampunk feel. The awesome part of this project is her excitement for it. This was a project where she was given creative license and she ran with it.

Example 2: Art is crafting.

This is the original sketch Jadarius drew.
Here Jadarius models the final set of wings. This version of wings were movable … yes … they would flap as he pulled on the strings. The best part, he was able to wear them all day and the kids were all telling him how awesome they were.

Even better when this happened…

Jadarius embraced the Darwinist side of the book and tried to recreate himself as a Beastie. He worked on this over the course of several weeks and as you can see from the original sketch on the whiteboard to the final product it went through a series of changes. He was crafting his vision and was not afraid to fail. When he initially built his first set of wings and put them on there was an excitement … then he tried to walk outside and the wings caught on the door. They looked nice, but they were not functional in the sense he couldn’t wear them all the time so he went to the drawing board and spent the weekend rebuilding these winds.

Example 3: Art is music.

Marc decided to create a song for his project. Keep in mind Marc is 12 and plays the violin, guitar, drums, and pretty much anything else with strings. It is amazing how when given the opportunity he infused his passion for music with his project and that is really what learning is all about.

Example 4: We get to use power tools.

Cutting a circle … not the easiest thing to do.
Making an octagon from … yes, he had to learn the angles of the octagon before he could make the cuts. Funny thing was that it did not seem like learning math when you are making something cool.

Over the years I have had the opportunity to be the first to introduce kids to using power tools. Whether it be a drill or saw the moment the kids pull the trigger there is a pause where they look at me with this happy fearful expression … then they feel the power rush through their veins. Being able to craft using wood opens up a different type of art. One where the kids could possibly build items that are bit more sturdy and it is interesting how much more excited kids get when building a project rather than just using a store bought project board.

The Art in STEAM has to be incorporated in a manner that allows kids to express their passion and passion is highly individualized. This can be scary to many teachers who live by detailed rubrics with specific project goals. In the Art world there are goals, but how those goals are met has to have latitude so the kids use their strengths. Too often, teachers like to assign projects that are the same as it makes them easier to grade, but those types of projects are not very memorable for the kids. The best projects are the ones the kids will remember forever.

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