Slice of Life: Summer STEAM


“Wisdom Begins in Wonder”

These words are as true today as they were 2500 years ago. I may have heard or read them before, but I was happy to see them painted on the wall of the “Cabinet of Art and Curiosity” installation at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford yesterday. I was there to participate in the museum’s “Summer STEAM” workshop, designed to show teachers “the many ways art can enhance science, technology, engineering, and math” in their classrooms.

Lisa Delissio, a STEM Faculty Fellow at Salem State University, began the day with a talk about the intersection of art and science. She explained that the “perspective and knowledge of artists is essential to scientific approaches to problems.” Specifically, she listed the observational skills artists bring to their work that have been found to have an impact on the skills of her biology students. These include:

  • visual qualities
  • other sensory qualities
  • perspectives
  • materials
  • connecting to meaning: memories and metaphor
  • context, function, and purpose

Dr. Delissio then showed us this image:

By Prosthetic Head (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
By Prosthetic Head (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

She asked us to use the observational skills of an artist and the perspective of a biologist to respond to the image with word and/or  pictures. My sketch was very rudimentary, but my jottings were very much dominated by my poetry brain. I was immediately drawn to the stamens of the large flower in the foreground, which reminded me of sunspots exploding on the sun and the flower in the bottom center waiting to bloom. To me, its folded petals looked like hands folded in prayer.

We were given ten minutes to work on this, which sounds like a long time. But it really wasn’t. I could have easily  spent another half hour working on my observations and the poem I was beginning to formulate. Keeping the STEAM theme of the day in mind, I started a Fib poem, a poem which uses the Fibonacci sequence to determine the number of syllables in each line.

rests on
bright purple
aster petals, their
stamens exploding like the sun.

The auditorium full of dozens of teachers was absolutely still as people worked. But it didn’t feel like work at all. We were completely engaged in our creativity, our intellectual curiosity sparked by the blending of diverse disciplines. As Dr. Delissio explained, students who pursue double majors in science and the arts are more creative, and exhibit more intellectual curiosity and divergent thinking than students with a single major.

Attending this workshop was a joy for me, not because I needed convincing that the arts should be included in STEM, but because it bolstered my belief in the importance of including the arts in our classrooms. As schools across the country embrace STEM and devote time and resources to integrate STEM into the curriculum, we have to ensure that the arts are always included. As Anne Jolly points out in a recent Education Week article, “The purpose of STEAM should not be so much to teach art but to apply art in real situations. Applied knowledge leads to deeper learning.”

Thank you to StaceyDanaBetsyBeth, KathleenDeb, Melanie, and Lisa for this space for teachers and others to share their stories each Tuesday. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

5 thoughts on “Slice of Life: Summer STEAM

  1. Oh, wonderful to read about your experience, Catherine, and I love the poem. Our students from k to 8 all kept field journals, and also did lots of art throughout their year. We believed these informed every other aspect of their learning. They learned to slow down and observe, be accurate in taking notes, on & on. I’m glad you got to do this and then share with us, so exciting!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I did not see the folded hands until I read further and saw your comment. Wonder is the source for so much. Lovely poem. Feel the energy here in NJ:)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is just beautiful and so useful, really the essence of STEAM in my mind. I believe the arts feed us making us whole, allowing for divergent thinking. And love, love your poetry brain. Thank you Catherine.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Just wanted to say that it’s fantastic to see the photograph being used for something so interesting and positive. Exactly the sort of thing I’d hoped my images might be used for when I put then online. Thank you for sharing, I enjoied reading your observations and poem.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s