It’s not STEM, It’s STEAM

By Joan Holliday

In the book, “The Story of Kennett: Shaping Our Future One Child at a Time” authored by Bob George and Joan Holliday, a chapter is devoted to looking at a path forward with ideas that came out of the many interviews related to the people of the town. One of the areas that interviewees agreed needed to be addressed is assurance that students and the community have opportunities to engage in the arts.

During a recent community engagement, it became known that both Kennett and Unionville Schools have emphasized Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) which results in less emphasis on the arts. STEM is needed in today’s world economy, and the primary place the kids are going to get it is in the schools. But research has shown that weaving arts (STEAM) into everything education does, boosts academic achievement and promotes creativity. (Remember the three R’s, there is reading and writing along with arithmetic.) Art has long been recognized as an important part of a well-rounded education — but when it comes down to setting budget priorities, the arts rarely rise to the top. Fortunately, Pennsylvania’s budget this year funded the arts more than anticipated.

With the school as one arm involved with the children, the community grass roots groups can also pick up the baton. Some groups are doing just that within our Kennett community. Casa Guanajuto has been very creative in setting up their Cinco de Mayo and Dia de los Muertos celebrations. Each event provides opportunities for the right brain/creative artistic side to express itself. Music, dancing and culinary specialties are showcased at Cinco de Mayo. One steps into a sea of color and sense stimulation and feels pulled into the creative experience without even trying. Dia de los Muertos is another occasion, where community members can get involved in expressing their creative side. One signature moment occurred in 2016 when the Kennett Community Choir showed up to sing at Rusty Jones’s spirit altar and engage in a celebration of his life at the Dia de los Muertos event! There were artifacts from his life, foods that he enjoyed, and photos that brought his spirit back into the heart of Kennett Square---all expressed artistically. This year, Casa Guanajuato is setting up several community opportunities to create artistic rugs for the same event to occur on November 2nd at The Garage Community and Youth Center. This once again is encouraging all age groups to step beyond the technical mind and engage an activity of artistic expression.

This summer at National Night Out, East Linden Street held a ceremony that spoke about the relationship building that Study Buddies students are engaging with the local police department. Instead of a long list of items that described their relationship, each student drew an artistic picture to depict common interests that each student had with one of the police officers. This expression was so effective and taught the student that a “picture paints a thousand words.”

In the community planning to build a new Kennett library, forums were held to solicit ideas from the community to determine the best design for a new library building. Community members expressed the wish for a designated “maker’s space” for programing opportunities that the schools may not be able to provide youth. This could be the very addition that helps keep the library an active community center.

Oxford has created an art presence in their community through the Oxford Art Alliance Center. Having a visible site that showcases and engages the arts has made a difference. The hope is that Kennett will find a way to create a similar venue in the heart of town in the near future. Each age group and culture has something to offer in this arena and gain benefit from opportunities offered through art classes, performances, music lessons, art shows, writing workshops, craft lessons, and more. The arts elevate the community engagement process and Kennett is at its prime for this development.

As schools come to grips with limited resources many are dropping music and theatre; we need to provide our children a well-rounded education. Integrating community art into the town mainstream may be just the way to do that. The emerging motto is: it’s not STEM, It’s STEAM.

Books may be purchased on Amazon, at the Mushroom Cap or Kennett Resale Book Shoppe.

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