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Heather Tanner

Combining STEM and the Arts in Education Leads Drexel Student’s Research

Heather Tanner

Dozens of Philadelphia students had the chance to combine their love of dance, music and art with STEM education subjects at Drexel’s ExCITe Center through a pair of innovative camps, and thanks to the research of a Drexel University undergraduate student, students attending those camps are walking away with a greater interest in careers in STEM and the arts.

Heather Tanner, a Drexel University Sophomore majoring in Secondary Physics Education, recently presented her research titled “STEM Education: Using Creativity to Teach STEM” at the 2016 STAR Scholars Showcase. Tanner, a native of Doylestown, Pennsylvania and a member of Future Educators of Drexel, worked at the ExCITe Center this past summer assisting with two summer camps for Philadelphia children.

The first camp was called “Summer STEAM,” a program sponsored by the Malcolm Jenkins Foundation that served seven children entering middle school. Students had the opportunity to explore technology and science through visual and performing arts and athletics.

The second camp, titled “Drexel Summer Music Technology” allowed 20 students entering high school the chance to understand how the science and math relate to the music industry. Students learned everything from understanding how music is recorded and produced to experimenting with acoustic and digital instruments.

At the end of each camp, students showed off their newfound knowledge of STEM and the arts through presentations that were evaluated by a panel of Drexel University faculty who work in the ExCITe Center. Tanner used the topics presented in the camps to create assessments that covered five key rubrics: project design, knowledge gained, application, presentation, and novelty. “These rubrics and student surveys indicated that, by the end of these programs, students from both camps had learned the basics of STEM through the arts and left with a higher interest in pursuing STEM fields.”

Tanner noted in her research that it is not uncommon for school districts to cut budgets for school arts programs in favor of standardized test preparation and science based classes, but hopefully summer programs like those hosted at Drexel will help to show how the arts and STEM education go hand in hand in providing a holistic educational experience for children. “By broadening the range of students interested in STEM and the arts, we will be producing a generation of well-rounded and creative students that will be prepared to work in an increasing number of multidisciplinary fields.”