Wolf Trap’s Early Childhood STEM Learning Through the Arts

Categories: ASC, Blog, Education

By Akua Kouyate-Tate
Senior Director of Education, Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts

A Wolf Trap program that utilizes music and math. (Photo credit: Scott Suchman)
A Wolf Trap program that utilizes music and math. (Photo credit: Scott Suchman)

For more than 30 years, Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts has been a leader in early childhood education. In 2010, we received a major grant from the U.S. Department of Education to implement and study a professional development (PD) model that enables teachers to infuse performing arts strategies with mathematics instruction in Kindergarten and pre-K classrooms in an effort to improve children’s math skills.

Our program, Early Childhood STEM Learning Through the Arts (Early STEM/Arts), provides unique arts-integrated content, which includes 16-session classroom residencies, multi-day integrated art/math training workshops, peer-sharing of instructional strategies and one-to-one mentoring and coaching with a Wolf Trap teaching artist. The Arts & Science Council’s North Carolina Wolf Trap is one of 17 Affiliate partners throughout the U.S. that is now primed to implement Early STEM/Arts in early childhood classrooms in the community.

We recently received the results of the four-year study, and were thrilled to learn that Early STEM/Arts had a statistically significant, positive impact on students’ math achievement. Additionally, the study found Wolf Trap’s Early STEM/Arts program demonstrates the necessary features that constitute effective, high-quality professional development (PD) for teachers. When American Institute for Research, the independent researchers conducting the study, measured Wolf Trap’s model against standards of effective PD, they confirmed that Wolf Trap provides high-quality PD by thoroughly integrating: form, duration, collective participation, content, active learning, and coherence.

A Wolf Trap program that connects dance and math. (Photo credit: Scott Suchman)
A Wolf Trap program that connects dance and math. (Photo credit: Scott Suchman)

The research data validates the work that Wolf Trap Institute Affiliates across the country have been doing over the last 30 years: we are empowering teachers with dynamic ways to integrate performing arts techniques into traditional classroom instruction. When Wolf Trap teaching artists work with educators, teachers have more confidence to incorporate STEM concepts into their lesson plans. In this way, the ‘Wolf Trap approach’ to professional development supports educators for years to come. As a result, teachers are cultivating in children a foundational knowledge of STEM that they will likely carry throughout the trajectory of their education. Studies show that early childhood education is pivotal to how children will perform in the latter stages of their educational development. Arts-integrated STEM learning is highly effective for young children and fosters excitement about, and a desire to, engage in STEM.

We are very pleased with what has been accomplished to this point and are excited about what’s to come in the future. With the support of our Affiliates and partnering organizations, children and teachers throughout the nation are benefitting.

To learn more about the Early Childhood STEM Learning Through the Arts program, please watch our latest video: http://youtu.be/YItpTgHEEhg

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