Young children love to play. They explore their world through building with a variety of materials. It can be putting boxes together of different sizes and shapes to make a fort or tunnel. They construct with Duplos, then Legos or wooden blocks and Kinex. They can build marble runs out of plastic pieces of varied type and observe how the marble travels through different patterns. In all of this play, envision how something will work, and then making it happen through experiment and experience takes place.
In addition to building, children explore with art materials. They paint, color and draw, all through which they have a vision or an idea and proceed to execute it. The projects may be large or small, but all have a plan and implementation, as well as an investigation of goals accomplished on whatever level the child is. Most valuable is the analysis of action and results. What happens when you do something? Did your project turn out as envisioned? The scientific method is in play. Plan, act and study outcomes.
This type of play continues its way through other skills to learn. Music involves learning a new language and expressing someone else’s message through your own vision. It is critical thinking in all its glory. Anyone who has studied an instrument or participated in band or choir knows that you have to do multiple things at one time, and that the end result is a culmination of many learned tasks. It also is an opportunity for creative expression as is drama. Both offer a student the chance to have something to say with their own voice.
So what is the difference between saying something with your own voice, whether it be music, visual arts, dance or drama, and becoming inventive with math and science? Can’t this path be related?
Why do we separate the experience of math and science and the arts? It’s as if the idea of learning cannot be integrated. Skills should all build on each other and contribute to the entire learning palette. What a young child learns about building and design through his or her early hands-on experience should be the foundation for continuing design and build projects. The skills or tasks should grow as the student ‘s capabilities grow.
If a third grader plays with a yo-yo, why shouldn’t this student learn how the yo-yo is put together and why it works the way it does. These basic concepts can be learned as appropriate to what the student can comprehend. Yo-yos can be designed and built and the complexity with which they work can expand as student ability grows.
This example is just one and a simple way to introduce the fundamental concepts of physics and aerodynamics. There are so many other ways to begin to learn more complex concepts that a student can experience the beginning and build as they grow and learn. Learning about sequencing, patterns can begin with simple dance and music. Water them and they will grow.
The arts are great precursors to engineering skills with which one uses what is learned in science and math. Technology is a tool that pervades all. Saying more advanced STEM skills don’t need the arts is ridiculous because these basic tasks are fundamental to so many engineering disciplines. Learning is inquiry, project-based and experiential.It all goes into who a student becomes and how they learn and understand. In addition, it makes it relatable and fun. So, why not?