Full STEAM ahead


Why art has become such an important part of Notre Dame’s upcoming new wing — and to its students' futures.

In an article published by EdSurge, a news and information repository designed to connect the emerging community of EdTech entrepreneurs and educators, Nicole Messier discusses the relatively recent “STEAM” movement and how it’s creating more opportunities to engage and excite young learners about science, technology, engineering, and math. 

Messier says that STEAM, an interdisciplinary spin on STEM that includes an “A” for art, is an integral part of influencing kids’ interest in STEM by allowing kids to explore these subjects through hands-on making. 

“STEAM is a popular movement that was founded by Georgette Yakman in 2007 to promote and integrate design and art into the STEM fields,” Messier wrote. “She defined the movement as ‘Science and Technology, interpreted through Engineering and the Arts, all based in elements of Mathematics.’ Since then, STEAM has become widely supported by wildly disparate advocates including Sesame Street and the Rhode Island School of Design.”

STEM without its all-important “A” is a non-starter for schools focused on the future of education and, more importantly, the future of its students. Messier says that transforming learning environments from STEM to STEAM changes the way kids see and think about STEM subjects. She says that art provides the typical STEM classroom new avenues of fun, playful and creative possibilities. 

That is also why “art” has such a critical role in NDPMA’s “March on to Victory” capital campaign announced last March.

While Notre Dame’s award-winning visual arts program can successfully stand on its own, like the rest of the school’s academic program, it has been a well-thought-out complement to every other facet of the school’s extensive curriculum.

The new facilities planned as part of the campaign, which total 26,000 square feet, will include a one-story science, technology and arts wing to be added to the shared middle division and upper division building. The new wing will house science laboratory facilities, collaborative learning classrooms, a robotics lab, a specially designed greenhouse, and a fine arts studio.

Fr. Leon Olszamowski, s.m., corporate president of NDPMA, said that from the very beginning of the school in Pontiac he and his administration have always tried to be on the cutting edge of elementary-through-secondary school academics. 

“Further,” he said, “the educational program we have here now is not necessarily for students living in today’s world. But with this project that will more fully incorporate STEAM into the school’s daily life, we are looking at what students will need in the future.”

Olszamowski added that the new fine arts studio will be an integral part of the science, art and technology wing and provide a setting that encourages and fosters the talent and imagination of Notre Dame students. 

“Natural lighting, abundant wall and floor space, proper worktables, ample shelving and storage, a kiln room and more will provide a setting to help aspiring young student-artists flourish,” he said. “The space also will include a modern gallery to exhibit student-artists’ work.”

Daron Gifford, NDPMA board chairman and co-chair of the campaign, said the goals of the campaign, which is the most ambitious in the school’s history, are to help the school maintain its educational leadership not only for its current generation of students, but also for many generations of students to come. 

“The whole idea around sciences, technology, the arts and math is that they are part of the analytical skills that children need today and will be even more vital to them in the future,” Gifford said.

EdSurge article author Messier, who also is the CEO and co-founder of “blink blink,” a start-up designing creative circuit kits to engineer DIY, arts and fashion projects with technology, concludes her article by saying that carrying out STEAM projects in K-12 education also fosters collaboration — an innate characteristic of kids; although, kids probably refer to it as having fun with their friends and family. 

“Hands-on projects provide kids with the opportunity to build something with others and to share ideas and gain new insights through collaboration,” she said. “They will be learning communications and collaboration skills — necessary skills for creating future STEM leaders.”

More on the March on to Victory campaign for science art and technology is here.

Comments or questions? mkelly@ndpma.org.

Follow Notre Dame on Twitter at @NDPMA.

About Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy
Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. The school's upper division enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame's middle and lower divisions enroll students in jr. kindergarten through grade eight. All three divisions are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDPMA is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy, visit the school's home page at www.ndpma.org.