From STEM to STEAM: Opening A Creative Arts Option School
(Editor’s Note: This is the introductory post in a series of articles about the opening of a new Creative Arts Options School in Seattle, WA. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter and make sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ to follow Ken on this journey!)
I began teaching in Seattle Public Schools as a music specialist in 2002 and I’m certain if you would have told me when I entered graduate school that I would be working as an elementary music teacher, I would have laughed in your face. Twelve years later, I am now happy to be opening a new Creative Arts Option school in Seattle. The school is scheduled to open this September, and over the next few months we will be applying to the district to be officially designated as an option school providing an emphasis on the creative arts. This will be one of several posts I hope to share with you about our plan and vision to set our school apart from other K-5 option schools in the district.
DEFINITION OF AN OPTION SCHOOL
An option school is similar to a Magnet School, and here in Seattle it is defined as “a school that provides a variety of programmatic opportunities for families looking for alternatives to their attendance area school…offering a variety of different curriculums and educational styles.” When the principal first approached me about becoming a part of a new CAO school, we had previously worked together in two schools where as the music specialist I taught choral, general music and instrumental music in one comprehensive program to all the students. This particular model is not typical of most K-5 schools in our district where there is usually one general music teacher and a different instrumental music teacher. Having one music specialist in a building with the skills and resources to provide such a program will be one important distinction of our CAO school.
STEM VS. STEAM
So how we will define our school with a different curriculum that supports the creative arts? I think the first step will be convincing families that the arts are not an extra-curricular part of a child’s education. And if you are not familiar with the STEM vs. STEAM debate, you should be. (This blog post and this infographic are good places to start). The first option school of note in Seattle was a STEM school. And I have yet to hear a public official call a press conference to say “Our child’s test scores in the arts and access to the arts is sorely lacking. Today I’m calling for a comprehensive approach to arts education in our schools…” Having a clear vision for a CAO school will require us to examine the current attitude toward arts education in general. And then articulate to our community the need for a school that places emphasis on the arts. Many thanks to Leading Notes for this opportunity to share with you our process along this important journey.
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