Eight months ago I had a crazy idea to create an outdoor classroom filled with sand inspired by my time on the beach with sand artist John Gowdy. After much planning, grant writing, discussions with my co-workers and administrators, meetings with the PTA, and research, this idea has become a reality. The idea is that the students can connect play with engineering, math, and science concepts in a creative way. I call it the STEAM garden. In essence, it is a giant sandbox...20’x12’x2’…big enough for a whole class to get into, and filled with nineteen tons of beautiful, high quality sculpture sand. It is located behind our greenhouse, covered and secured behind a fence for health and safety reasons.
In this STEAM Garden, my art students will create sand sculptures and team building engineering challenges that I have designed. These activities are all about the experience due to the fact that they will be raked out soon after they are finished. I tell my students all of the time, the joy is in the journey and that concept certainty applies to all of the activities that will take place here. For art and architecture classes, activities will be about the experience…no permanent art or design will take place here although the digital photography classes can document artwork created. The STEAM Garden not just for the arts classes. It is designed to be used school wide across all disciplines including our counselors and special education classes. Science classes can do labs on erosion and physics in the STEAM Garden. Math classes can use it to teach measurement and volume. Every time I look on-line, I come up with more ideas for just about every subject that the students take in our school including social studies and language arts.
Next week is our grand kick of and celebration of the STEAM Garden. Thanks to our generous PTA, John Goody will be coming to do a two-day workshop on sand sculpting with our students. Every student in our school will be a part of this in some way.
As far as I know, this STEAM Garden is the first of its kind so I’m not sure what is going to actually happen and how exactly we will use it. Stay tuned for news on the reality of the STEAM Garden.
Hi, I'm Arin Leard and I am an art teacher at Mount Hebron Middle School in Montclair, NJ. We are a STEM magnet for the Montclair School district. I am working towards putting the arts into STEM to create STEAM!