Students in the grade 4 STEAM block utilized the free-flowing space of the new Lower School STEAM Center recently, as they worked on a multifaceted project that blended visual arts, science, engineering and writing.
The unit progressed from an art history lesson around the famous 1925 Edward Hopper painting “House by the Railroad.” By applying additional STEAM concepts, the project became an interactive display with electrical lighting, 2D art and engineered 3D creations inspired by the painting.
“The unit was initially a concept connecting visual arts and grade 4’s service theme of home and shelter. We then brought in science and engineering concepts, which came together to create a fun and engaging STEAM project,” said Lower School science teacher David Beshk, who teaches the grades 4 and 5 STEAM blocks along with art teacher Mary Mayer and technology teachers Stefani Baker and Laura Redman.
Students began the unit by analyzing “House by the Railroad” in class, discussing the work’s rural landscape and colors, and brainstorming other metaphors and meanings in the painting. The students then created their own house inspired by the famous piece, using paint and Prismacolor art sticks.
Next, students applied their knowledge from a recent electrical circuitry unit in science to create lights to add to the artwork, using small lithium ion batteries, wires, switches and LED bulbs. With help from the STEAM teachers, the circuit was soldered and taped to the back of the art, and holes were made in windows of each house for small lightbulbs—bringing the artwork to life with just a flip of a switch.
In addition, students also had an engineering building challenge where they created a house that met specific building requirements using straws, cardboard, craft sticks, paper, toothpicks, glue and tape. The structure needed to have a second-floor balcony and slanted roofline as the “House by the Railroad” does. STEAM block teachers also partnered with the Library, as students created poetry relevant to the STEAM unit during the Library time.
The 2D art, 3D structure, a diagram of the electrical circuitry, and the poetry will all be included in a final display to conclude the unit.
“The ability to immerse themselves in the concept of housing and shelter is fantastic for the students,” Mrs. Mayer said. “To be able to dig even deeper and explore so many more ideas with art, science and engineering is what we strived for with the creation of the STEAM block.”