STEAM and the Environment

Science and art can solve an environmental problem because with science we can figure out the problem and with art we can communicate with people about what the problem is.
— Nathan, Maime Towles Elementary 6th Grader

This program focuses on how science and art can be used to solve an environmental problem, including spreading awareness to the larger community. Students engage in a variety of hands-on, collaborative activities to learn about the workings of the Hydrologic Cycle, investigate the region’s local drought conditions, and work together to develop solutions in an effort to communicate their findings to a greater audience. This unit provides students with an experience for how artists convey the values of water resources to their local communities, and how an understanding of science and art together can be used to convey behavioral or emotional changes in an effort to inspire others to create positive change.

This STEAM unit is backwards designed from Next Generation Science and National Art Standards for sixth grade and includes pre- and post-assessments for students. Students receive three, 120-minute classroom lessons and a field trip.

Lessons Overview

LESSON 1: MODELING THE HYDROLOGIC CYCLE 

During this 120-minute lesson students will learn the parts of the hydrologic cycle and how energy drives the movement of water around earth. Students will also reflect on various works of art, identifying how artists model or represent water as parts in the hydrologic cycle.

LESSON 2: WHAT’S MISSING? 

During this 120-minute lesson students will explore themes related to artist Maya Lin’s last memorial “What is Missing?” and compare those ideas to parallel the “missing” inches of snowpack in our local Sierra Nevada Mountains. Students will locate data online and use satellite images of Sierra snowpack to graph data over time, analyzing patterns of change and discussing possible effects. 

LESSON 3:  FIELD TRIP 

During this 2-hour field trip, groups will hold collaborative discussions about how art can be used to draw attention to the environment, including how communities represent value in their resources. Students will also be engaging in a hands-on technical water color lab using various watercolor techniques to create certain effects on watercolor paper.

LESSON 4: USING MODELS TO IDENTIFY WATER VALUES

During this 120-minute lesson students will use their skills from the watercolor art lab to design a piece that represents what part of the Hydrologic Cycle they value the most. Students will then work collaboratively to engineer a model of the Hydrologic Cycle using their art pieces to create a discussion about how we value water as a community. Students will note what parts of the scientific model are missing and compare those to what parts they felt were valuable enough to include in their pieces and why.


Teacher information

COMMON CORE 

Statistics and Probability 6.SP 

NEXT GENERATION SCIENCE STANDARDS 

MS – ESS2 – 4

National art standards

VA:Cr1.2.6, VA:Pr5.1.6, VA:Re9.1.6

Nevada

  • Program being revised in Nevada

California

  • Program not available yet in California