Susan Riley | July 2013

Voting Now Open for STEAMed Awards

We asked and you shared!  The semi-finalists for the STEAMed Awards are now in.  Below, please find the list of semi-finalists for their contributions to innovation and creativity in the classroom, as well as a link to their essay or video.  Once you’ve previewed them all, cast your vote for your top choices by clicking the “Vote” button next to each post.  We’ll tally up the votes and the 3 finalists will be announced next week.  Hurry – voting closes on July 19th at Midnight.  Best of luck to all our semi-finalists and thanks to everyone who submitted a nomination!

Kindergarten students using Twitter and cell phones?  In Mrs. William’s class, learning has no boundaries. You may of heard of Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD) as a means to allow students to use technology in the classroom. Well in our class they are Discarded Devices often from family member who have upgraded. Apps are then added for students to use in centers to work on math, writing or listen to stories.

This class also uses Twitter to communicate and learn from others in the world. With the twitter account @williamsj_class Families enjoy checking in to see what was learned during the day which then helps to talk about what was learned during the day at school. Students enjoyed learning about other classrooms and communities. Often during a class lesson a student requests if we can Tweet about what we have learned right then instead of at the end of the day. Technology is used in our classroom as a tool to learn and reinforce skills.


The Dryden Elementary School K-5 art room is infused with technology for art production and instruction. My students have authentic audiences for their work through both local and global communities. We embrace STEAM by seamlessly blending technology and art throughout multiple lessons on a daily basis while energizing, enthralling, and engaging our young learners.

This video will give you a quick look at our program:

I facilitate students’ learning by leading them towards discovering natural connections between artistic design and aesthetics with scientific problem-solving and engineering design. Full STEAM in action! One successful project students completed this year was curating a gallery of STEM-related works of art for our school’s walls.
For this project, students first brainstormed a list of fields, objects, and ideas which all relied on STEM concepts and skills. Choices like transportation, machinery, and technology surfaced early from the students. After this brainstorming session, students were asked to use their iPads to search for interesting works of art related to these fields and topics.

Students each chose 5 works of art to share with the group that they felt worked well for our themed gallery. The resulting compilation of images was astounding! Subjects, topics and ideas we never imagined fit with STEM and art were now so clear! WPA Images by Lewis Hine of children laboring in front of early machinery, DaVinci’s invention sketches, botanical photographs used for plant identification, scientific yet beautifully abstract images of distant galaxies, paintings depicting 17th c. Science laboratories, a photo of a spiral staircase showing the Fibonacci curve, the list goes on.

Students found more amazing works of art that clearly demonstrated the connections between STEM and Art than I could’ve imagined. Since students generated such a large pool of amazing work to choose from, the entire student body selected the 15 pieces which they liked best for our school. Thanks to a generous donation from a local organization, our students purchased their entire gallery (framed and ready to hang, no less) after making their presentation to the organization at the end of May.
What an amazing lesson whose product will enrich both our students’ lives as well as allow our visitors a look into what STEAM really is.


Early in my teaching career I attended a conference on Art Across the Curriculum. Later, the concept became known as Arts Integration. Today, it has a new 21st century name, STEAM. At the heart of the idea is a timeless truth: we are human. In our humanity, we are curious beings. We are driven to innovate. We are determined to leave our mark. This intersection of our human spirit is where I teach.

I was determined, as a starry-eyed newcomer to teaching, to celebrate these natural connections across the disciplines. My students would experience the tapestry of lives and culture and technological achievements. It only made sense that other content areas would also see the value of training up the next generation of Renaissance men and women. WRONG! My big ideas took too much time, cost too much, didn’t fit the new standards regime, and were terribly messy.

Little did I realize that I was on the cutting edge ten years ago when, in frustration, I lobbied for and got permission to create a new Art class. I called it Project Discovery. If the arts couldn’t come to to core, I would bring the core to the arts.

The vision for the class is simple. Students seek out and find for themselves the connections between the arts and the core content areas of Science, Mathematics, History, and Language Arts. Using direct instruction in the creative process as our starting point, I teach my Middle School artists to question, understand and create. The evidence of their learning takes on many forms, and is presented to audiences which can appreciate and evaluate the knowledge and skills being shared.

My students have created some amazing artifacts of their learning. They have found heroes in their chosen fields of passion, and have become heroes in their own right. Project Discovery students paint pictures with, of and from words, find beauty in a mathematical equation, wonder in the basic patterns of life, and a voice in the stories of other’s lives. They build and they fail to launch, but they know by then how to reflect and revise.

As for me, I watch, I get more duct tape and make sure that the glue guns are unplugged. After the initial instruction in the creative process and the introduction/inspiration sessions at the start of each unit, the torch passes and it’s the students who run. If someone gets stuck and the “ask 3, then me” rule isn’t working, I advise, but I never fix. I think my students appreciate it; it makes the victory sweeter and they own the next step even after an epic blowout.

Project Discovery is a place where the arts and the core collide. As with any good smash up, it’s messy, it’s noisy, and sparks fly. Our aftermath, however, is the unleashing of creative forces that energize and enrich my student’s lives. And once the mess is cleaned up and the circus leaves town, I know I’ve made a difference.

Showcasing STEAM from our art classroom, known as the Fine Arts Studio at RJ Richey Elementary, Burnet CISD, in Burnet, TX:

Temple Beth Hillel Day School, Valley Village CA, just completed the first year of integrating art into the Common Core as well as the Jewish Studies Program.   The Head of School appointed the school’s Art Specialist as a consultant to the faculty and each teacher was presented with an Art Integration notebook filled with articles from Education Closet, strategies for implementation, and served as a place to gather lesson plans and resources.

An inservice was held prior to the beginning of the school year to motivate and encourage staff members to embrace an art integrated approach to their subjects.  Teachers received periodic emails featuring staff members and their classes upon completion of their integrated unit throughout the year.

Integrating art into the Jewish Studies program is a new and different approach to the the Jewish Studies curriculum and has brought to life the history of Israel and Jewish traditions. Our second graders spent two months creating Noah’s Ark and animals (sculpture), first graders made Shemesh or prayer pillows (textiles), and third graders displayed their understanding of Passover traditions through creating “stained-glass” paintings (focus on the windows in Jeruselum).

Our strategy for implementing art activities into an existing Jewish Studies was to pinpoint the key units of study and map onto the study one or more art based activities.  For example, the students who created an entire 3-D Noah’s ark with 56 animals (in duplicate!) were divided into teams and given ownership of their projects from the selection of animals to the materials and supplies for create them.  Progress on the ark was charted by the students and staff with updates being shared with parents and faculty. The enthusiasm of building the ark was the springboard for other integrated units throughout the school-wide curriculum as well as the Art Education curriculum

The integrated projects  were featured in displays throughout the school year, through weekly informational emails with photographs to parents, and students giving presentations to other classes as to how art making was connected to their studies of Jewish values and traditions. At the conclusion of the school year, displays of student projects and how the projects were used to foster understanding and knowledge of Jewish studies  were viewed by parents and the community.  In addition, the teachers used their final professional development meeting as an opportunity to share with other teachers examples of art-based activities and how they reflected the Core Curriculum and Jewish Studies program.


My name is Janine Campbell and I am a Visual Arts teacher at Byron Center West Middle School in Byron Center, Michigan. I approach Visual Arts through an integrated approach that intertwines other disciplines, content, and aspects of every day life into curriculum. Although my main focus of content taught in my classroom is the Visual Arts, I am a good candidate for the STEAMed awards due the nature in which I tie aspects of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics seamlessly into the Visual Arts curriculum I teach to my students.

From the first day of school, students are starting to manipulate materials and get their minds working. I start each school year with clay manipulation on day one. Students create clay bowls and clay imprinted leaves for various community projects.  As we work, students learn the Science behind the stages of clay and the physical changes that occur do to the firing in the kiln. Through observation, students predict and report on how glaze changes as a result of the firing before we present our works to benefit the community.

Technology is a huge component in how I deliver content and engage students in my Visual Arts classroom. I use a Learning Management System to blend learning by putting content online for students to access assignment details and turn in their work. By handing in digital files of Art students create, I can easily upload their creations to our online gallery at and share what we are working on with the world. I also incorporate many digitally enhanced projects through the use of video production, Photoshop, and various Web 2.0 tools. Through the use of technology, students easily turn a drawing into an animation or a photograph into a painting and then share their results through our online gallery and blog

Hands-on building opportunities are important and valued in my classroom. I also take the time to participate in field trip opportunities where students can see how Engineering is an important facet of being an artist. Every year I take my students to The Federick Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, where they can interact with larger than life sculptures from famous artists like Dale Chihuly, Jim Dine, and George Rickey. As we admire the works, we discuss the process in which they were engineered and the amount of work that was put into making sure they were stable works that could withstand the ever-changing conditions of Michigan weather.

One of my favorite lessons I teach each year is observational hallway drawing using one-point perspective. Using Math, specifically principles of geometry and isometric drawing, students get out into the halls of our school and draw what they see using the principals of perspective. Students not only learn how many things designed by architects that they have not noticed before, they also learn that using this method of drawing with a ruler with a vanishing point provides an easy and reliable way of producing a realistic environment.

These are just a few of the ways STEAM exists in my classroom. If you would like to know more about these and other STEAMed up projects, please go to our class blog at Thank you for the consideration and I wish the best of luck to all of the other candidates for the 2013 STEAMed Awards.


I designed a call-and-respond Math Warm-up for my students so that they can readily embrace the mathematical concepts and vocabulary of third grade. The  warm-up has allowed students of all levels to fuse movements with rather dry terminology. Three times a week, we use the Math Warm-up as one of our breaks during our math hour.

On Wednesday, May 15th, a new student entered our class, having lived in Mexico for the nine months, and not been in school for the previous four months. Many of the mathematical terms we had been using for the last 150 days were completely befuddling to him. It was a true joy to see how quickly his confidence soared when he followed along to the warm-up several times. By Monday, he was bursting with pride, and able to decipher parallel, perpendicular, and intersecting lines.

The video here is a bit rough as it was haphazardly captured in our cafeteria.

Thank you for taking a look!

Christina Pilkington is the driving force behind the website, Interest-Led Learning.  This site is dedicated to co-designing a life of passion, adventure and connections with children.  Christina is constantly seeking ways to engage children in the natural ways in which they explore the world: the arts, science, technology, and hands-on activities.  She promotes inquiry-based learning and honors the heart of STEAM by sharing ways in which to explore learning together, rather than a one-way instructional process.  Please visit her website to get a full understanding of the many ways Christina uses STEAM with all learners!


About the Author

Susan Riley is the founder and CEO of The Institute for Arts Integration and STEAM. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, STEAM, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and STEAM education. Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter. Email Susan