16 Ways to Add steAm to STEM

Wonder how Art fits in the STEM learning model?  Most likely, if you’re an art teacher, you’re already teaching using Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.  Often, it just takes identifying how you incorporate these concepts as part of your art curriculum.

The sixteen ideas shown below are real STEAM applications used in the art classrooms of Samantha Melvin, Tricia Fuglestad, and Theresa McGee.

Systems: Samantha Melvin

Art Systems

I think the most important concept is the connection to contemporary art and contemporary thinking with the big idea of “Systems.” We are surrounded by systems: the solar system, computer systems, and our own respiratory system, for example. Artists use systems to create, and use systems to think about their work. As artists, scientists, and thinkers, we are applying systems in many exciting ways. We refer to the contemporary artist Allan McCollum’s  work.

We use a variety of media, which does not always incorporate technology, and yet we use technology to share our ideas with others.





Finding Coordinates: Tricia Fuglestad

Tile wall finding coordinatesThis is a view of our Artsonia Tile Wall. I had numbered all the rows so that each tile became a coordinate. They took turns finding the tile that matched their coordinate and tried to label the art they found as a landscape, still life, portrait, figure drawing, collage, etc. They were very good at finding coordinates because, as they all exclaimed happily, “We did this in math!”  See more about this learning activity here.


Inventions for the World: Theresa McGee
This art experience can be modified from a high tech enhanced podcast using iPads and computers (in example below) to traditional media and still be a great STEAM model.  Incorporate the science and engineering work of contemporary artists into a project that promotes design thinking and creative problem solving!  Download the lesson in iBooks.

Lima Bean Monsters: Tricia Fuglestad

Lima Bean MonsterThis ebook has every 1st grader’s lima bean drawing featured in a mob design.
Some of the students were able to add their voices to the book next to their work. Check out this lesson plan and download the ebook here.





Kalediscope System Designs:Samantha Melvin
We used the Kaleidoscope app on the iPad to demonstrate collaboration using a system. Each student drew a type of line on a piece of paper, put it in a basket, then each artist pulled one as their TASK (refer to Oliver Herring’s TASK) Each artist added that line to the design, creating a unique Kaleidoscopic work of collaborative art, as seen here in the video.

Cardboard Arcade/Low Tech, High Innovation: Theresa McGee
Inspired by the short film, Caine’s Arcade, the students used engineering and design thinking to create their own arcade games from cardboard.

Anti Litterbug: Tricia Fuglestad

anti litterbug

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to encourage children to be good stewards of the environment while teaching the parts of an insect and how to animate digitally on iPads at the same time?  Learn more on this cool project here.




Electric Toothbrush Marks: Samantha Melvin

The challenge of this team project was to develop a way to create a mark on paper using an electric toothbrush as the engine.  In the video below you will see the results of the variety of ways the students accomplished this task from circular moving contraptions to short marks.

Georgia O’Keeffe Car Design: Theresa McGee
This STEAM art experience explores innovations from the past that build on each other to create new ideas for our future.  The Ford “Model A” innovation empowered Georgia O’Keeffe to travel throughout the United States creating artwork like no other seen before.  This project encourages the children to design a car with a purpose and use a variety of technology to create an exciting art production.  I also created a custom Google Map documenting important places Georgia traveled to support our learning.

Padlet Collaboration with College Students: Samantha Melvin
We collaborated with University of Texas Art Education students on a Padlet through which we discussed how artists have taken chances in their work. It provided a virtual link to each other’s ideas before our visit to the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, during which the university students gave a docent-led tour to my 4-5th grade students. It was a great experience.

Terrific Tessellations: Tricia Fuglestad

Tessellation School Arts Tessellations make a great tie to math concepts with incredible aesthetic outcomes.  Read how to accomplish this lesson in SchoolArts Magazine April 2014 issue.






Monotype Printmaking: Samantha Melvin

Monoprint Shape

Multi-Student Collaboration

Multi-Student Collaboration

We used Gelli Plates for a monotype printmaking process, in which we discussed Allan McCollum’s ideas and his system, and then created our own. Students designed a shape that they cut out of wallpaper (lasts longer due to the vinyl-like finish) and then they used it in their print. They then pulled a second print by collaborating with other artists, making aesthetic decisions along the way: does my piece fit, or does it work with others’? They stopped making decisions based on their relationships in the classroom, instead they were making aesthetic choices for their art.

iBooks for Math/Engineering/Tech: Theresa McGee

Teach engineering and math concepts through an iBook format.   The video below demonstrates some of the ways students can use digital devices to learn and interact with STEAM concepts in your class.

Rotoscope: Tricia Fuglestad


The global Rotoscope challenge is a great way to incorporate STEAM into your art program.  Learn more here.





Scratch by MIT: Samantha Melvin
A great way to introduce your students to another system! The system of language: this time, it’s code!

Augmented Reality- Technology as a path to learning: Theresa McGee
Engage your students in the learning process through the magic augmented reality.  Discover new concepts and showcase student work through artist statements. Learn how to create your own augmented reality experiences here.

Looking for more STEAM ideas?  Check out Samantha Melvin’s STEAM Pinterest board.

Still not enough STEAM? Sign up for Education Closet’s STEAM online conference.

Theresa McGee

Hello! My name is Theresa McGee and I am a National Board Certified Art Teacher and Apple Distinguished Educator teaching in Hinsdale, Illinois. My curriculum is structured around creative thinking and technology integration into the learning process. I have authored eighteen articles for the Tech4ArtEd Column in SchoolArts Magazine and several iTunes U courses for professional development. I've presented at the state and national levels including several online webinars for art educators. In 2010, I was awarded Illinois Elementary Art Educator of the Year and in 2011 I was awarded the national PBS Teacher Innovator award. I love to share ideas that contribute to the art education profession!


  • June 7, 2014

    Jeremy Blair

    Love it all. Very inspired!

  • December 1, 2014


    I love the idea of using the tile wall to reinforce their coordinate lessons from Math class. Finding ways to tie into pieces of the curriculum that are traditionally neglected by specials teachers, like Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, is really important. It makes me wonder what other physical spaces around the school could be used in a similar way. It may be less exciting, but setting up some kind of scavenger hunt for tiles or other grid-like spots in the school that could be used as coordinates and hiding clues on certain tiles, could be a great way to show students coordinates that go beyond graphs.

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