Tag Archives: STEAM

Day 22: Thankful for Art Teachers

Day 22: Thankful for Art Teachers

“Day 22…” is not the usual way I would start a blog post, but this month I have been trying to share daily gratitude through social media. Today, I wanted to go a little further in an attempt to express just a fraction of my gratitude toward the art educators I work with day in and day out.

FCPS Art Teachers at the National Portrait Gallery

I have said, many times, that in my job I have “the great pleasure of working with 380 amazing art teachers.” It’s not just talk. I mean it. I am  frequently over-credited as “being in charge of” or “running the entire” K-12 art program in our school district, but in fact it is these folks who make it all happen. While I do my best to develop and provide helpful resources and facilitate some fidelity in the programs, the amount of work we are able to do in the fine arts office is dwarfed next to the work this army of art teachers do every day.

I don’t just mean this in a numbers sense. Sure, 380 art teachers can put in way more hours than a couple of us in the instructional services office, but these teachers are committed! Every day I see or hear about another way they are going well above and beyond to make a difference in their students lives. They are supporting students through difficult situations, life coaching, staying late to support clubs and activities, taking student to museums, traveling with them to New York City, meeting them for evening artmaking events… The list goes on, and many of them are practicing artists to boot!

I want to share one specific story that I hope will be illustrative.

Recently a new central office project manager was named for the STEAM program (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics). The team has existed for a few years now, and turns regularly — as they should — to specialists in the Science, Math, Fine Arts, Career and Technical Education, and Instructional Technology offices to support and inform their work. I admit, though, that from its inception, I have struggled with how I can support from my role.

Naturally, the new project manager, getting acquainted with her new role, wanted to meet with me to discuss how we might work together and I am certain that I sounded a bit lost as to how I can support in a meaningful way. I didn’t want to give the impression that the Arts didn’t have a place in this work — and I definitely didn’t want the ‘A’ in STEAM to be what some have called the POS approach (paint on stuff), but I couldn’t yet grasp how I might help.

Not long after, the STEAM team asked for input to identify schools where they could see STEAM instruction in practice in our schools. Now that I can help with! And this starts to get at my point… Even as I am unsure of my role in supporting STEAM as an initiative, I know that there are many art teachers who are deeply engaged in the work in their schools.

I was able to recommend several teachers and schools where this is happening through the arts, and as the STEAM team has started making school visits, they have been duly impressed by the work of the art teachers.

And that is what I mean. The magic is happening on the ground, in the schools, and the magicians are the art teachers.

I am so grateful for each of you!






Art & Technology

Congratulations to the many students, and their teachers, recognized at the Technology+Art=NOW reception yesterday evening. The artwork is stellar, and you should be incredibly proud!

I also want to thank — and congratulate — Arts Herndon, the organization that organizes this program. I want to thank them for recognizing our artists for excellence and for providing monetary scholarship awards to encourage these students in their endeavors. That may all make sense but it may seem less clear why I would want to congratulate them as well. 

I want to congratulate them for their vision.   Arts Herndon recognizes that significant advances in creativity and innovation are happening at the place where art and technology intersect. The Technology+Art=NOW program is a clear demonstration of this belief, but the really impressive part is that they have been doing this for ten years! Kudos, my friends, Kudos!

Fore more information about the program, go to the ARTSPACE Herndon website, or read the FCPS news release

NASA says ART!

NASA director Charles Bolden was at a local high school today giving a talk to the astronomy classes. One of the art teachers, Kenny, jumped on the opportunity to take his advanced photography and computer graphics students to listen. Kenny shared his opening thoughts:

“He began his talk, addressing the importance of art on advancements in science and how all that NASA does would not be possible without the creativity of artists.”

NASA's Charles Bolden speaking at a local high school
NASA’s Charles Bolden speaking at a local high school

Thanks for sharing, Kenny!


NAEA: Writing and Art

There are dozens of presentations in the catalog addressing a relationship between art instruction and another discipline: Art and Writing, Art and Science, Art and Math, STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics). 

Bettyann Plisker’s presentation, Spark Creativity: Merge Writing and Art, included a message that I hope is being reiterated in each of these. 

Keep art instruction at the forefront. 

Bettyann did a great job illustrating how writing supports art instruction, not the other way around. Several specific examples were shared that showed how using writing in art instruction served to meet art standards and happened to, at the same time, meet writing standards. 

Writing in art supports and improves student learning. That’s why we do it — not to validate our curriculum by teaching a “more important” subject at the same time. 

I hope this is the message you are hearing at the other Art and… sessions. 


This year a few of our schools worked with the Greater Reston Arts Center (GRACE) to develop some exciting STEAM projects.  Check out this video to hear about some of the innovative ways schools were integrating the arts and sciences.

GRACESTEAMAt the risk of driving away viewers, I am using the glorious visage of my buddy, John Adams. Thanks, John, for all of your work to support these projects!



Nuggets from NOLA #11

IMG_0291While in New Orleans, I’ve done a lot of thinking about the intersections of art, design, and STEAM instruction. As I see it there are a two distinct dynamics in play:

  • We are exploring design in art instruction (the theme of the conference), and
  • We are trying to figure out what quality STEAM instruction looks like.

What I don’t hear is a clear message that these two go together. A strong design unit can easily integrate several STEAM disciines. Take a simple example: Design a Lamp.

Think how easy it would be to incorporate all of the STEAM disciplines in this.

  • Make the design aesthetic.
  • Diagram the design
  • Build a model
  • Consider the effects of light color and quality
  • Present the design digitally
  • Build and wire a prototype
  • You could even research materials, sourcing, and production cost

I think if we look, we may find that many of the best design lessons are excellent examples of STEAM instruction. Maybe we need to share this with the leaders in our schools.