The Arts STEAM Ahead

Left to right: Paula Beck; Carol Davis; Nicole Guido; Maribeth Hickey; Danielle Rescigno; Susan Radin-Turner; Gina Tinucci; Dr. Joseph Centamore; Noreen Erickson; Verna Amakawa; Vickie Dollin; Joy Weiner; Jessica Flinn; Sarah Salamone, Coordinator of School Programs, and a Walt Whitman Graduate; Kristina Schaaf; and Michael W. Schantz, Executive Director & CEO of Heckscher Museum.
Left to right: Paula Beck; Carol Davis; Nicole Guido; Maribeth Hickey; Danielle Rescigno; Susan Radin-Turner; Gina Tinucci; Dr. Joseph Centamore; Noreen Erickson; Verna Amakawa; Vickie Dollin; Joy Weiner; Jessica Flinn; Sarah Salamone, Coordinator of School Programs, and a Walt Whitman Graduate; Kristina Schaaf; and Michael W. Schantz, Executive Director & CEO of Heckscher Museum.
Left to right: Maribeth Hickey, Nicole Guido and Danielle Rescigno working on a simulated curatorial exercise.
Left to right: Maribeth Hickey, Nicole Guido and Danielle Rescigno working on a simulated curatorial exercise.
Left to right: Paula Beck and Jessica Flinn are surrounded by the Stan Brodsky Retrospective currently at the museum.
Left to right: Paula Beck and Jessica Flinn are surrounded by the Stan Brodsky Retrospective currently at the museum.
Left to right: Vickie Dollin, Verna Amakawa, Gina Tinucci and Susan Radin-Turner collaborate as they assemble elements for their simulated exhibition.
Left to right: Vickie Dollin, Verna Amakawa, Gina Tinucci and Susan Radin-Turner collaborate as they assemble elements for their simulated exhibition.
Using the examples of art from in the museum’s collection, Noreen Erickson and Carol Davis work with pastels to highlight their simulated exhibition.
Using the examples of art from in the museum’s collection, Noreen Erickson and Carol Davis work with pastels to highlight their simulated exhibition.

A popular theory in the 1980s had people describing themselves as either "right-brained" or "left-brained," with the left-brainers claiming greater math skills and the right-brainers touting their creativity. A lot has changed since then, and the latest theory holds that when the two halves of the brain cooperate, optimal results follow.  Recently the district’s art and dance teachers gathered for a full-day symposium hosted at the Heckscher Museum, where they exchanged ideas and worked on projects that were intended to better integrate the differentiated learning styles of our students. 

“Our art and dance teachers are integral partners in the curriculum and a very valuable resource for traditional academic teachers to tap into,” said Dr. Joseph Centamore, the District’s Assistant Supervisor for Personnel and District Services. “The arts are a foundational discipline in itself because they cross all lines.  Creative, outside-the-box thinking is important to having honed critical thinking skills, so the arts become a natural conduit to promote college and career readiness.” 

“There are many kids who are visual learners, so art is an important piece of education for all disciplines,” said Joy Weiner, Director of Educational and Public Programs at Heckscher Museum. 

Heckscher has recently introduced our students and teachers to STEAM by adding “A” for “art” to STEM.  This past summer the museum worked closely with our students by bringing a treasure trove of art to our Summer Literacy program. “The students developed visual literacy as they discovered how and why the artist’s style evolved over time from realism to abstraction.” said Heckscher Museum’s Associate Director of Education Kristina Schaaf.  At this past fall’s symposium for the arts, teachers received valuable insight connecting the arts to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. “This workshop has been an amazing collaborative effort and has helped us learn more about STEAM and how crucial it is to our curriculum,” said Ms. Paula Beck, Maplewood art teacher. 

Oakwood/Birchwood art teacher Ms. Jessica Flinn agrees. “I’m excited to collaborate and extend this effort to all of our colleagues in all of our buildings,” said Ms. Flinn. “Today’s program will help us to incorporate the common core into what were doing. It will really benefit our students.” 

In one particular problem-solving activity, the teachers analyzed pieces of art and in a simulated curatorial exercise, collaborated with team members, saw different common threads, then worked together to simulate a small exhibition using the examples of art from the museum’s collection,” said Kristina Schaaf.  “The project encouraged analytical and creative thinking.” 

South Huntington’s art and dance teachers take on a variety of roles and use many different instructional techniques as they engage with their students. They create a safe environment where students feel free to express their thoughts and feelings and take creative risks. “The teachers are a passionate group who believe strongly in the arts and how they can benefit a whole array of children,” said Heckscher’s Joy Weiner. “We really got great dialogue and perhaps took the first steps in integrating art more strongly into the curriculum.” 

“Art can help all teachers with how they teach,” said Stimson/Walt Whitman art teacher Ms. Nicole Guido.  “We as art teachers will continue to collaborate and inform our colleagues about how art can help them.” 

It’s really inspiring to work within a museum environment and really connect our art teaching and Heckscher Museum,” said one of the district’s art teachers. 

“Thanks to the leadership of Superintendent Dave Bennardo, Deputy Superintendent Jacqueline Harris, Technology and Curriculum Supervisor Dr. Jared Bloom, and Silas Wood Principal Steve Toto, we have been able to integrate STEM as a focus, and now the district is looking to expand that to our other grade levels,” said Dr. Centamore. “The symposium enabled us to create partnerships in the community, and it was a reality thanks to the vision of our superintendent, Dr. Dave Bennardo, and the support of our Board of Education.” 

Thanks to the efforts of so many, there is no doubt that STEM is gaining STEAM in South Huntington Schools, and our students will benefit greatly.