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University pushes arts in STEM curriculum

21 April 2013 By Brandi Bottalico, Associate News Editor No Comments

Dance education major Rachel Bunting said her dance class, DANC 201: Developmental Movement, opened her eyes to how important her major is.

Twice a month, the class visits the Baltimore-based Port Discovery, an interactive museum for children. They teach kids ages 1-6 about simple science concepts, like biology, through dance.

The program “Moving to Learn: Grow Up Great with Dance and Science” is a partnership between the University and Port Discovery, and means to teach children from an early age about science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“We can look at the facts about arts integration being successful all we want, but until you see the joy understanding of a concept in a child’s eyes that you are dancing and learning with, you can never know just how much happiness and real educational success can come from it,” she said.

An ongoing initiative with the University is to incorporate the arts into the STEM curriculum, which is subsequently taught in public schools.

Presidential Scholar Nancy Grasmick, who is leading the curriculum changes at Towson, said that if Towson students learn both STEM and the arts, they will have advantaged position to teach others.

“The arts are critical to STEM education,” Grasmick said. “The arts teach critical thinking, application of knowledge and integration knowledge. I do feel the integration of these two areas of concentration are valuable to students and help to enlarge their repertoire of knowledge and approaches to learning.”

Incorporating arts into a traditional curriculum has shown to help children understand concepts through visual and kinesthetic mediums, according to Bunting. It also allows for creative thinking and individuality.

Bunting said she loved the responsibility of setting up the classroom for the children and working one-on-one, and thought these field trips were helpful and offered experience the children wouldn’t normally have access to.

“We work hard to connect with them and make sure that they are having a good time and are actually making educational gains throughout the lesson,” she said. “We do all of the movements with them and model what some of the concepts for those who don’t know how to do them, and also allow for their own creative poses or movements that we encourage and point out.”

Sophomore dance education major Shianne Antoine said every student learns differently and that she is a more visual and kinetic learner.

“Using art, music or dance can help students learn material that may be difficult to comprehend in the classroom,” she said. “If dancing was included in my science classes growing up, I probably wouldn’t struggle with that subject now.”

The Port Discovery program is headed by faculty member Jaye Knutson, who teaches in the dance department.

“It’s very important for teachers in training to work with kids and their subject area and part of Towson’s strategic plan is to create partnerships with the community so that everyone benefits,” she said. “I wanted to form this program that focuses on underprivileged children who don’t get to experience in the participation in the arts the way many other children may.”

Port Discovery’s Andria Washington said that she looks forward to continued collaborations with Towson.

“It has been a pleasure working with the staff and students from Towson University for Moving to Learn: Grow Up Great with [Dance and] Science,” she said. “It is amazing to watch them introduce the children to new concepts in such a creative format.”

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