Full S.T.E.A.M. Ahead Inserts Art Into STEM Education

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Linda Tiffany is retired from teaching art in a school setting, but she still remembers a fifth-grade teacher telling her, “My kids have too much math and science (that) I’ve got to get into them. We don’t have time for art.”

Tiffany, who previously taught art at schools in Panama City, Tallahassee and Gainesville, will make time for art by teaching in “Full S.T.E.A.M. Ahead,” a brand-new series of after-school programs through the Alachua County Library District.

The program will revolve around teaching STEAM-based topics– science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics – to students from elementary-school age to older teenagers.

The library district’s Archer Branch, where the program will be hosted, decided to create “Full S.T.E.A.M. Ahead” in response to the STEAM initiative introduced by Alachua County Public Schools superintendent Owen Roberts, ACLD spokeswoman Nickie Kortus said.

Pat Carr, a librarian at the Tower Road Branch, developed the program’s concept, naming it in homage to the city of Archer’s railroad history.

Carr asked Tiffany to help with the art-focused portion, which will last for the first four sessions and present science, technology, engineering and math through an art perspective.

Tiffany created her own curriculum and will teach sessions titled “Basics of Art – Drawing and Composition,” “Color Theory,” “Where Can Art Take You? Careers in Art” and “Holidays in the Arts.” Each session will feature a different artist and integrate aspects of other fields included in STEAM.

Tiffany said she believes that art can encourage students not only to improve their artistic skills but also their “left-brained” skills like math, science and technology.

When asked about her encounter with the fifth-grade teacher, she said, “He started seeing the development in the younger children of how much they grew and blossomed and how much they were interested in math and science because of the art program.”

Some of what Tiffany plans to teach in the program includes principles of light, art-related jobs like video game and film design and the mathematically inspired works of M.C. Escher, an early 20th century graphic artist.

However, the curriculum won’t include only math and science – Tiffany wants her students to also learn how to draw subjects and still-life portraits.

“[Art is] just so important in education, not only how it relates to all the other areas of education, but it also gives that part of the brain a chance to relax and create,” she said. “From that, so much grows and so many ideas come forth, and it’s just a vital part of our lives.”

On Aug. 13, Carr spoke about the program at the Archer Cultural Progressive Organization Inc.’s back-to-school rally, where she received positive feedback from parents.

“As a parent with young children in the Alachua County school system, I am thrilled that they are reintroducing the arts as an important part of being a well-rounded individual,” said Archer Branch manager Jodie Patterson, who encouraged the creation of “Full S.T.E.A.M. Ahead.”

 “All aspects of STEAM are important, and all library programs have the power to benefit those in attendance.”

The series will begin today at 4 p.m. at the Archer Branch library. More information on future dates are available at the Alachua County Library District website.

About Layne Weitzel

Layne is a reporter who can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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