If the road to integrating the arts sounds a bit daunting or overwhelming, you’re not alone.  We know that integrating the arts with integrity is SO important for reaching and teaching all of our students, but how can we do that when there are so many other demands on our plates?

Between Common Core, Teacher Evaluation, Classroom Management, Grading and our LIVES, the demands are endless.  Integration can easily start to feel like the dreaded “one more thing.”

But if we are smart about our approach, arts integration and STEAM can actually make our lives easier!  If we use a thought-out plan for integrating the arts, we can actually teach more standards in less time, improve our assessment practices and classroom management becomes easier because students WANT to participate.

One of the strategies that I love for STEAM lessons is using a Studio/Lab classroom design.  It takes the elements of studio time in the arts and merges them with the practical application of an analytical lab experience.  The result is that students are learning explicit skills and techniques and then applying them to solve a real-world problem.

You don’t need a special space or time to do this, either.  You can transform any classroom into a studio/lab environment, simply by reframing how you think about teaching skills and processes of your content area.  So whether you are teaching an arts lesson, a reading lesson or a science lesson, this approach will highlight the essential processes of both creativity and analysis.


STEAM Lab Process

Here’s how to set up a studio/lab environment in your class:

1. Studio Time.  Select the specific skills/processes/techniques you want your students to use. Set aside time during your class for students to explore these elements without fear of failure.  This is the time to take risks and see what happens.  Students will learn from their failures and are encouraged to keep trying and modifying until they reach a level of success.

2. Transition. Build in time to switch over to the lab environment. Provide students with a specific problem or question and ask them to think about how they might use the skills/techniques they just learned to help develop a solution or new solution to the problem/question.

3. Lab Time. This is a time when students can work alone or with others to merge their ideas with their skills/techniques and apply it to the problem/question you have set up.  Once they develop a proposed solution, they can present it to their peers, receive feedback and revise their original idea to make it better.

You can embed Studio/Lab time in any class, at any time.  As with most other integration strategies, I always recommend that you start small.  Try it with one class or for a specific period of time.  Reflect on what works for your students and modify it to fit your needs.  You’re an artist after all!

**Want more details on how to make Studio/Lab time work for you?  Check out my latest book, No Permission Required: Bringing STEAM to Life in K-12 Schools, which provides much more information on this topic!