Steaming

blue schoolIt’s no longer sufficient just to take pictures; you need to know how to build the camera too, reports Sophia Hollander in The Wall Street Journal (12/3/13). That’s the thinking at MS 534 in Brooklyn, New York, a public school where students are expected to understand the relationship between arts and science. The camera serves as "bait to draw the user in and then expose them to as many concepts as possible," says Shree Nayar of Columbia University. "One kid may come away being drawn to the sciences, another one may take photography."

So, eighth graders work in pairs to figure out how the 38 pieces of a camera kit fit together before they are turned loose to create art with it. "There’s only one way to put a camera together but there are infinite ways to interpret a picture," observes Jerry James of the Center for Arts Education (CAE). "On one hand you have logistical stuff to work out and on the other hand you have imagination." CAE is "a nonprofit and advocacy organization that promotes arts programs in New York Public Schools." Combining the arts and sciences is seen as a way to stem the decline in funding arts classes.

This drive, known as STEAM – adding an "A" for Arts to the existing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) acronym – is also promoted by the Blue School, founded by members of Blue Man Group, who say their performances were "like a science show … They used pi to calculate wood dimensions" for a drum, for example. "The technology kids have now is the worst technology they’re ever going to have," says Allison Gaines Pell, who heads the school. "We need to give them opportunities to take things apart and put them back together in connection to solving problems in the world."

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