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Supporting Educators with Arts Training - Muse Machine STEAM Teachers Institute

June 23, 2022 | Features

This week, Chapman Cultural Center is leading its 28th year of the Muse Machine STEAM Teachers Institute. The STEAM Institute is a three-hour graduate credit course coordinated by Chapman Cultural Center, with accreditation through USC Upstate. This year’s course professor is Dr. Derek Fenner, Instructor of Art Education at USC Upstate, and also led by expert teacher Dr. Cindy Riddle, Assistant Superintendent of Visual and Performing Arts, Gifted and Talented Services of Spartanburg District One, with special assistance from dance teacher, Kellianne Floyd.

What is the STEAM Institute?

As part of the STEAM Institute, educators from across the state participate in the week-long training that focuses on incorporating the arts into classrooms of various disciplines. Through this training, educators can take the concepts and activities back to their classrooms and implement research-backed strategies to improve academic outcomes for students using the arts as a catalyst for learning. The content of the institute is aligned with the South Carolina College and Career Ready Standards for Visual and Performing Arts Proficiency. To date, the STEAM Institute has served over 2,000 educators from throughout South Carolina with innovative professional development.

The STEAM Institute is generously supported by Milliken & Co. both financially and through a strategic partnership by providing access to their world-class innovative and creative facility and employees.

Why is STEAM Education Important?


STEAM education is designed to stimulate creativity, curiosity, and innovative thought by incorporating the arts into various academic subjects. However, it is normally focused on the inclusion of the arts to improve performance in science, technology, engineering, and math. According to research from Julia Marshall, art integration is a rich and complex approach to teaching and learning that not only aligns with new initiatives in education that prioritize conceptual and procedural skills but could also contribute to education's transformation. Framing art integration as a transdisciplinary field with a distinct conceptual framework, epistemology, and practices provides a full account of art integration that practitioners and advocates alike may find useful for conceptualizing the field, promoting it in education, and developing it further.1

What are some of the activities that educators experienced?

The STEAM Institute allows educators to familiarize themselves with the arts through hands-on arts activities and reflect on their experiences. The intense week contains design and STEAM Challenges, field experiences such as visiting Milliken’s Innovation Gallery followed by a panel discussion with Milliken scientists, hands-on art activities, and creating lesson plans. 


In one of this week's activities, class participants were asked to use found or traditional art materials to create a mask that protects them from what they are afraid of. The activity was inspired by the work of artist Nick Cave who creates “Soundsuits”—surreally majestic objects blending fashion and sculpture—that originated as metaphorical suits of armor in response to the Rodney King beatings and have evolved into vehicles for empowerment. Fully concealing the body, the “Soundsuits” serve as an alien second skin that obscures race, gender, and class, allowing viewers to look without bias towards the wearer’s identity. 


The activity correlates with Social Impact & Equity Emotional Health and Wellness (SEL) and can be used in trans-disciplinary learning in subjects such as Literature: Science fiction novels and stories; Science: Examine change in the natural world throughout time; History: Look at the past to understand the present and imagine the future; Technology and Engineering: Study systems to imagine new systems for the future; and Math: Measuring time. 

The tour of Milliken & Co.’s Innovation Gallery and behind-the-scenes look at their research facility was also a highlight of the week for the educators! The course participants were able to see first-hand the concepts of art and design in a practical way by seeing the creativity and innovation of Milliken’s designers, chemists, and researchers. With over 150 years of innovative technology and creative applications, Milliken’s influence is felt all over the world. Their wall of patents is incredible and it’s estimated that every day, the average person comes in contact with roughly 50 things that can be connected back to Milliken’s innovative and creative discoveries, products, or technologies! 

The trip concluded with a panel discussion of Milliken staff where they spoke about how the arts and creativity have played a role in their personal and professional careers!

1 - Transdisciplinarity and Art Integration: Toward a New Understanding of Art-Based Learning Across the Curriculum Author(s): JULIA MARSHALL

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