Arts Raising Interest in STEM

How do you get kids more interested in science, technology, engineering, or math (commonly referred to as STEM)? There are many ways to answer this question. ArtsRising will always answer, “with art, of course!”

The performing arts, to be exact.

For over two years, ArtsRising Coordinator, Ambrose Liu, has been lobbying to bring FMALive! To Philadelphia.  FMALive! Is a program designed by NASA and Honeywell, aimed at getting youth to begin thinking about the potential of STEM career paths at an early age. The program, FMALive!, exemplifies best practices for integrating the arts with core curriculum.  ArtsRising is proud to have been able to bring FMALive! to two Philadelphia schools, (an exceptionally rare feat unto itself as their performance schedule usually only allows them to visit a few schools in a given state, let alone a single city).

Last week FMALive! performed a series of 45 minute assemblies at Grover Washington Jr. Middle School and Baldi Middle School. Each school’s gymnasium was transformed into a giant, high caliber performance space. To offer a sense of the scale of the stage set-up, the performances were staged in each school’s gym because their auditoriums were too small to accommodate the technical setup.
You could see kids’ faces lighting up as soon as they stepped into the gym. A special assembly (a.k.a. a reason to get out of class) is always appreciated by students, but this one actually looked like it might be enjoyable. Many were skeptical. “Is this going to be fun?” one 6th grade student asked me. “I think so,” I replied. She still had her doubts. By the end of the show, it was a challenge getting her to leave with her class. “Is there going to be another show?” she asked. “I want to stay!”

I must confess when I first heard about FMALive! I had my doubts about the quality of the program. I thought it would either be extremely corny and educational, or very cool to watch with little educational value. I was so wrong. The show was non-stop entertainment from start to finish and extremely educational. Through song, dance, video, and physical demonstration with student and staff volunteers, the show teaches Newton’s Three Laws of Motion (Force, Mass & Acceleration) . By the end of the show they had successfully accomplished their mission- students were singing about motion, talking about “Mohawk Guy” from NASA, and asking their math and science teachers if they could have homework about the show.

Between two of the assemblies, I had the chance to talk to the crew and performers. They were just as excited to be bringing this educational opportunity to students as students and teachers were to receive them. “There are so many positive memories,” remarked one dancer, J.J. when asked about his experience being part of FMALive!. “One time I stepped into the hall after a show, to use the bathroom or something, and I could hear kids singing the songs and getting it.”

For more information on FMALive! take a look at their web site here.

For more media coverage of this events, you can check out CBS Philly, NewsWorks, and the Northeast Times .