After meeting Christi Wilkins of Dramatic Results at the 2019 Arts Education Partnership Annual Convening we made plans for me to visit her organization in Long Beach, CA. Dramatic Results fosters student success by offering a wide range of cutting edge arts-based programs. The goal was to share strategies for unlocking students’ intrinsic motivation for learning STEAM through an interactive workshop, live classroom modeling and panel discussion with multi media artist Guillermo Bert.
I met the teachers on Thursday and began the session with some slides about culture, cultural competence and culturally relevant pedagogy through STEAM education. This included the different cultural practices that involve people who have been historically underrepresented in STEAM.
I also talked about science capital that describes what students carry around with them, where they store all of their science-related knowledge, attitudes, skills and experiences. The teachers created concept maps using my approach to design thinking based on the cypher in hip-hop culture. From there, they could create design briefs that they could give to their students.
To draw on students’ science capital I presented fictional characters and real people who are cyborgs. I started with these examples when I met with the 6th graders at Lindbergh Middle School on Saturday. I introduced basic biomechanics concepts such as levers that depend on where the force is, where the fulcrum is and where the load is. The introduction looked at Tony Quan AKA Tempt1, a legendary graffiti artist whose style fused L.A.’s indigenous cholo writing culture with NYC style-writing to create a unique style. Tempt1 was stricken with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS.
Several years ago Tony/Tempt1 collaborated on the EyeWriter project with artists and engineers from the Free Art & Technology Lab, Graffiti Research Lab and OpenFrameworks. The 6th grade teams were tasked to choose a character/person, or device such as Tempt1/EyeWriter to develop a concept map around. They used Chromebooks to research more information about their subjects. Also, I displayed my demo robot hand that was made with found materials, fishing line and electronics for students to study.
Students re-appropriated aspects of their subjects and they created initial prototypes based on their ideas using found materials. They were given design briefs that outlined the deliverables and scope of the project, as well as provided a checklist to follow. After creating their prototypes they participated in a peer review.
Some takeaways from the events include the willingness of the DR teachers to be flexible with structuring student activities and the high level of motivation and engagement among the 6th grade girls. Rather than begin with the the machine or the technology I began with cultural identity and some level of empathy that often resonates with girls (based on prior experience). The boys were also engaged but that is almost to be expected because of the subject(s).