C’mon…this is like catnip for a cat. You know that Prosperity Partnership is involved in economic development initiatives to support both cultural access and STEM education. So how could I NOT blog about a major new initiative that combines the two!?!
When we talk about how important arts & culture is to our economy, we usually cite three main reasons:
- The quality of life that it contributes to, which allows us to attract and retain high demand workers that want to live in a high quality of life place
- The economic impact of the arts themselves ($1.7 billion in annual economic activity just in the four-county central Puget Sound alone)
- And the “educational and inspirational benefits” that make kids (and adults) more excited about learning and more creative.
What we talk about less is that arts can actually be a tool not only to inspire people to learn, but to actually teach them specific things. Of course, the idea isn’t totally new (I went to “the Governor’s Creativity Summit” back in 2007 and took place in a number of breakout sessions where we experimented with using arts to learn everything from social studies to math), but the fact that Wolf Trap is developing a replicable model to incorporate arts techniques into STEM learning clearly gets me very excited:
Wolf Trap’s Early Childhood STEM Learning Through the Arts initiative will focus on the development, documentation, and dissemination of innovative, research-based models that integrate arts into early childhood STEM learning...Wolf Trap Teaching Artists will begin working side-by-side with early-childhood educators this fall to integrate arts into math learning….With the arts, early-childhood educators can take math off the printed page and make it three dimensional so young children can feel it and relate to it…Because this may be the only program dedicated to STEM learning through the arts specifically in early-childhood education, dissemination is a critical component. The model program will be replicated in at least 10 Wolf Trap Regional Programs, a network of partner organizations around the U.S. that regularly share information. Information on the model also will be shared across the industry at national arts, education, and STEM-focused conferences, in publications, and online to guide other arts organizations and school systems.
The early education piece of this is huge, because we know that – if kids don’t get math by an early age – they are unlikely to ever catch up. I don’t know what happens over in Virginia, but our region happens to have an economy that is both at the top of the country in using people with STEM degrees and has the most arts organizations per capita, so it seems like something that would make sense for us to look into.
Maybe it can be an initiative of the new Washington STEM Initiative?