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STEAM Education with Guest Artist

Reprinted with permission of author, Avis Turner

These bracelets were made successfully with almost 700 students in just 4 days.

These bracelets were made successfully with almost 700 students in just 4 days.

West Woods Upper Elementary School welcomes guest artist, Balam Soto during the first week of March. Balam is known nationally for his interactive, participatory art works which use computer generated technology.

All students are having the opportunity to make multi-colored, pulsing LED bracelets. These seemingly simple constructions provide students with an introduction to the “maker-space” learning style prototype. The guest artist workshop series at West Woods, exposes students to a professional artist who is at the forefront of local and national culture. Working with a guest artist serves to inspire, inform, and enhance daily learning experiences through authentic, hands on activities.

“This is really more than a glittery art project,” says art teacher Mrs. Turner. As Balam leads students through five interactive domains known as STEAM. Working with Balam, students use Science (electrical circuitry), Technology (the LED or light emitting diode), Engineering (how to put something together to make it fit and work), Art (creative thinking and design aesthetics) and Math (measuring and proportions) to create a bracelet.

Balam’s message to students is that technology is everywhere; and that they will be on the front lines of using it to enhance human lives. He encourages students to explore and to love learning. Balam sees “failures” as stepping stones to new learning, to new discoveries and to finding solutions. He says when something doesn’t work the first time – it makes him smarter because he is determined and works on it until he finds the solutions, no matter what it takes.

West Woods Art teacher, Mrs. Ringquist was instrumental in planning this year’s guest artist. She seeks relevant and inspiring people who are also able to work with the upper elementary age group. Balam was the perfect match. Originally a painter from Guatemala, Balam brings a depth of knowledge in the areas of computer coding, open source sharing, and design implementations. Besides his own art, Balam creates kits (sold through his web-site link OWL), which help learners to explore new technologies using the maker-space mindset.

Balam is also leading an extensive project at Farmington High School. He and art teacher Mr. Proko are developing a student generated interactive map of the town which will be on display at the Farmington Library beginning this spring. This project is being funded by a grant that was generated by Department Chair, Mrs. Sawyer.

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