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Arts in Academics is a journal where I post ideas about creative thinking in relationship to teaching and learning. 

Entries in STEAM (4)


Top 10 Skills Children Learn form the Arts

This appeared on the ARTSblog, a program of Americans for the Arts.

By Lisa Phillips

1. Creativity – Being able to think on your feet, approach tasks from different perspectives and think ‘outside of the box’ will distinguish your child from others. In an arts program, your child will be asked to recite a monologue in 6 different ways, create a painting that represents a memory, or compose a new rhythm to enhance a piece of music. If children have practice thinking creatively, it will come naturally to them now and in their future career.

2. Confidence – The skills developed through theater, not only train you how to convincingly deliver a message, but also build the confidence you need to take command of the stage. Theater training gives children practice stepping out of their comfort zone and allows them to make mistakes and learn from them in rehearsal. This process gives children the confidence to perform in front of large audiences.

3. Problem Solving – Artistic creations are born through the solving of problems. How do I turn this clay into a sculpture? How do I portray a particular emotion through dance? How will my character react in this situation? Without even realizing it kids that participate in the arts are consistently being challenged to solve problems. All this practice problem solving develops children’s skills in reasoning and understanding. This will help develop important problem-solving skills necessary for success in any career.

4. Perseverance – When a child picks up a violin for the first time, she/he knows that playing Bach right away is not an option; however, when that child practices, learns the skills and techniques and doesn’t give up, that Bach concerto is that much closer. In an increasingly competitive world, where people are being asked to continually develop new skills, perseverance is essential to achieving success.

5. Focus – The ability to focus is a key skill developed through ensemble work. Keeping a balance between listening and contributing involves a great deal of concentration and focus. It requires each participant to not only think about their role, but how their role contributes to the big picture of what is being created. Recent research has shown that participation in the arts improves children’s abilities to concentrate and focus in other aspects of their lives.

6. Non-Verbal Communication – Through experiences in theater and dance education, children learn to breakdown the mechanics of body language. They experience different ways of moving and how those movements communicate different emotions. They are then coached in performance skills to ensure they are portraying their character effectively to the audience.

7. Receiving Constructive Feedback – Receiving constructive feedback about a performance or visual art piece is a regular part of any arts instruction. Children learn that feedback is part of learning and it is not something to be offended by or to be taken personally. It is something helpful. The goal is the improvement of skills and evaluation is incorporated at every step of the process. Each arts discipline has built in parameters to ensure that critique is a valuable experience and greatly contributes to the success of the final piece.

8. Collaboration – Most arts disciplines are collaborative in nature. Through the arts, children practice working together, sharing responsibility, and compromising with others to accomplish a common goal. When a child has a part to play in a music ensemble, or a theater or dance production, they begin to understand that their contribution is necessary for the success of the group. Through these experiences children gain confidence and start to learn that their contributions have value even if they don’t have the biggest role.

9. Dedication – When kids get to practice following through with artistic endeavors that result in a finished product or performance, they learn to associate dedication with a feeling of accomplishment. They practice developing healthy work habits of being on time for rehearsals and performances, respecting the contributions of others, and putting effort into the success of the final piece. In the performing arts, the reward for dedication is the warm feeling of an audience’s applause that comes rushing over you, making all your efforts worthwhile.

10. Accountability – When children practice creating something collaboratively they get used to the idea that their actions affect other people. They learn that when they are not prepared or on-time, that other people suffer. Through the arts, children also learn that it is important to admit that you made a mistake and take responsibility for it. Because mistakes are a regular part of the process of learning in the arts, children begin to see that mistakes happen. We acknowledge them, learn from them and move on.


All Hands-ON in the Classroom!

Lecture: A Case Study of Using Drums as the Entry Point for Teaching, Learning, and Participating.

Presenters: Janine Lee, Community Preparatory School, AND Amy Leidtke, Department of Industrial Design, Rhode Island School of Design

Rhode Island Art Educators Association State Conference

Theme: See Create Recycle and Problem-Solve

Location: Salve Regina University, Newport, RI

Date: Saturday, November 3, 2012, 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

This presentation will tell the story of a participatory design education project for G6 middle school students from Community Preparatory School and G17 industrial design graduate students from Rhode Island School of Design. Learn how the students set about answering the essential questions, “What is a drum?” and “Why do people drum?” by using design thinking in order to create a unique drum of their own. See how, working through a process common to the industrial design profession, students explored different cultures and technologies, experimented with a variety of materials, investigated physical properties and components of a drum, generated potential ideas, modeled ideas three-dimensionally and iteratively, and constructed and demonstrated how to use their final design solution. The project successfully integrated social studies, engineering, visual arts, and music curriculums. At the heart of this project are the themes, problem-solving, visualizing ideas through making (seeing and creating), and working with recycled materials, all of which relate directly to the conference theme.

Register at

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The True Story of Nature Inspired Design Innovation

The True Story of Nature Inspired Design Innovation – That is the title of my upcoming presentation at the Black Mountain College International Conference 2012, September, 28-30, 2012, Black Mountain College, Asheville, NC. 

Thematic Focus: Looking Forward at Buckminster Fuller's Legacy

Abstract: Nature has an impressive track record of solving problems. She uses only the resources necessary to get the job done in an elegant, brilliant, and collaborative way. What with her being so capable and beautiful how could we humans help but take notice? Arguably, we would do well to learn from both her failures and successes, to study her design principles, and to seek solutions to problems with respect to her example, especially in the case of developing innovations.

It is true that there is a long history of human’s being in awe of Nature. She inspires design. We can see recent evidence of this in an array of technological and structural innovations. For example, Thomas Heatherwick’s Rolling Bridgearchitectural structures that resemble avian engineered nests, and deployable structures that fold into compact shapes and autonomously unfold/expand into a different shape. In what could have revolutionary impact on the treatment of cancerous tumors, developers are now creating smart particles, self-assembling polyhedron nanostructures made from biodegradable polymers, those that contain and deliver drugs to precise locations inside the body. With stunning examples such as these, it is compelling to gain insight into the connection between Nature and human invention.

In an inspection spanning multiple eras and disciplines, we can see even more evidence of our fascination and reverence for nature. For example, consider the work of figures such as Leonardo da Vinci, Albrecht Dürer, William Morris, Buckminster Fuller, Peter Jon Pearce, Ross Lovegrove, Oren Lyons, Eva Zeisel, Howard Gardner, Robert Sternberg, Janine Benyus, Richard Louv, and many more.

How does the act of looking to nature enable artist’s, designer’s, and engineer’s process of discovery? What modes of inquiry facilitate creative learning? What is the motivation and benefit of looking to nature for design inspiration?

This presentation will address these questions, using art and design history as the lens for investigation, demonstrating how humans are inspired by nature’s design innovation, learning from nature’s problem solving method, and applying the lessons through research, observation, making, testing, and problem-solving –– critical investigations involved in the process of developing and creating art, products, furniture, architecture, and systems applications. The presentation will conclude with audience discussion and reflections.

Date and Time: Saturday, September 29, 12:00  


Arts Matter: Consider Supporting H.Res. 319

There is an important federal resolution currently up for consideration. H.Res. 319: Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that adding art and design into Federal programs that target the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields encourages innovation and economic growth in the United States. Sponsor: Rep. Jim Langevin [D, RI-2]. Status: This resolution was assigned to a congressional committee on June 21, 2011, which will consider it before possibly sending it on to the House or Senate as a whole. Learn more about fostering inovation through STEAM, visit stemto What follows is my letter in support of H.Res. 319, which I submitted via POPVOX.

Dear Congressperson:

I support H.Res. 319 because art and design can make a critical contribution to our country’s success. Federal programs that support the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (S.T.E.M.) fields are missing a key component of the equation, Art. Consider the skill set that resides in the field, the type of intelligence that a creative person posses. I understand artists and designers actively demonstrate and communicate higher order thinking skills, involving a critical combination of analysis, synthesis, abstraction, evaluation, and meaning-making (Revised Bloom's Taxonomy). Artists and designers are flexibly minded solution seeking problem-solvers, who are collaborative, strategic, and intelligent. We are innovators and our country could more of us actively participating in research, development, business, planning, and education. Embracing and fueling this type of creativity at all levels in the US, from childhood education, academic research, to business development, will help our country engage in innovation, with expectant outcomes that will fuel our economy. Please consider the potential of Art to make a difference. Consider transforming S.T.E.M. into S.T.E.A.M..