Students and Volunteers Master the A(rt) in STEAM Learning

In the ever-changing environment of family shelters, where uncertainty can overshadow childhood, incorporating STEAM learning (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) can serve as a lifeline for children and teens who often feel unseen and unheard.

According to education volunteer Chris Margulies, who creates curricula for students living at our tutoring sites, the art portion of STEAM transcends traditional learning and provides a safe space for expression and exploration.

“When I introduced the art show concept to students, only one student thought they were ‘pretty good’ at art,” said Margulies. Margulies was quick to credit Kim Zarella, a volunteer tutor and accomplished artist, who helped with lesson planning to teach a wide array of art mediums and techniques. Together with Site Coordinators Barbara Fox and Neveah Small, the Art Gallery Project took bloom.

STEAM art offers a platform for self-discovery and personal growth, according to Jonathan Vincent, SOWMA’s Education Director. As children experiment with different mediums, they discover hidden talents, learn teamwork and cultivate skills that extend far beyond the realm of art.

“In a world where their voices can feel silenced, art becomes their language without the need for words,” Vincent said.

SOWMA Founder Cheryl Opper echoed the importance of STEAM learning.

“Our tutoring model 20 years ago centered on homework,” said Opper. As a former teacher, she notes a growing trend of school districts who are starting to implement no homework policies. Subsequently, the education team brainstormed new models to keep students engaged in learning.

The research is clear; artistic expression improves cognitive abilities, enhances social and emotional well-being, and boosts academic performance.

According to Site Coordinators Fox and Small, by integrating the “A” from STEAM learning, their tutors nurture not only the mind, but a student’s confidence in their ability to interpret the world around them.

“When I arrived at the art shows, the family shelters were transformed into a gallery of beautiful artwork, with decorations, refreshments and very proud students,” said Opper.

She continued: “The children felt special and loved. I was moved to tears to see the children, parents and tutors lifted out of the world of homelessness – and into a world of joy and pride.”