State Grant Allows Adelphi To Integrate Art Into STEM Curriculum

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Students in lab with lasers. (Photo courtesy of Adelphi University)

Folding artistic elements into STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) curricula has gathered more steam on Long Island, with career exploration in the sciences veering away from traditional areas to ones that meld the creative and scientific, pronouncing interdisciplinary experience in this era of expanded 3D technology and virtual reality. And one institution most exemplary in embracing the aforementioned shift has been Garden City’s Adelphi University.

Because the Empire State Economic Development Fund (EDF), which offers financial help for projects that promote New York’s economic well-being by oiling the wheels of job creation, granted a whopping $87.9 million to the island last year, $140,000 of it is being funneled directly to Adelphi’s STEM Research Labs, which will be renovated and stocked with top-flight creative technology to bolster the school’s environmental and biomedical sciences.

Furthermore, the school recently implemented a new learning center where groups—student-based as well as industry-based—can get together for hands-on design and 3D printing. And since these programs have been so successful, they have served as a model for local school districts, with some having organized field trips to visit the labs, which also include a laser cutter for cutting wood, cardboard and paper.

“We keep thinking of building it out to where college students can come in and work on projects with a monitor here, and make it a hub for students and faculty,” said Dr. Cindy Maguire, who is the academic director of Adelphi’s Levermore Global Scholars and Art and Design Education.

In addition, this spring, two student teachers from Adelphi’s art education department will be teaching in the Garden City school district, which can be decidedly counted among the Long Island schools impressed with Adelphi’s initiative. In Sept. 2019, the village’s Board of Education was gifted $4,900 from the Garden City Friends of STEAM for a 3D printer to be installed in Garden City High School. The organization’s executive director, Matthew Wakeham, has stressed the importance of promoting STEAM throughout the community through talks, workshops and collaborative programs that expose students to different career paths, allow them to speak with professionals in those unique fields and recalibrate their thinking in terms of career possibilities. And the influence is taking root: the high school’s printer, a LulzBot TAZ Pro, is the same one Adelphi uses in its STEAM lab.

Indeed, graphic design epitomizes the incorporation of arts in scientific fields: a month after the Friends of STEAM donation, Garden City School District Assistant Superintendent Edward Cannone met with Maguire about art programs at the high school and emphasized the growing number of students who aren’t art students per se that are champing at the bit to hear from graphic design experts and apply what they learn hands-on. Perhaps best illuminating this is Maguire’s summation that art serves as both a medium and a foundation for education.

“The arts are often the sole remaining place in the curriculum where embodied, experiential learning still exists, where interacting with materials forms the basis for extended critical learning, risk taking, creative play and innovative expression,” she said. “Creating these kinds of spaces as a way of assisting my students with linking theory to practice is the primary aim in my teaching.”

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