This June the New Jersey Arts Education Partnership took part in Sustainable Jersey’s 2017 Sustainability Summit, held at The College of New Jersey. A spirit of collaboration filled the air, as the theory of collective impact was made tangible during the one-day Summit. Sessions throughout the afternoon featured varied topics such as coding for community, complete streets, and strategies to support local sustainability initiatives. The advantages of working collectively toward common goals were evident throughout the Summit. And in The Art of Sustainability: Turning Creativity into Problem Based Solutions the benefits were writ large.
A showcase of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) teaching and learning, the session was intended to highlight “examples from participating schools using integrated Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math to prepare the next generation of sustainability leaders”. The panelists represented many organizations that have led efforts related to STEAM throughout New Jersey. Heather McCall, Sustainable Jersey for Schools Program Director, and Mary M. Reece, Director of Special Projects, Foundation for Educational Administration, introduced the new iSTEAM actions that will soon be part of the Sustainable Jersey for Schools program. Jackie Knox, Education Program Associate, Young Audiences New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania and Adrienne R. Hill, Principal, Hedgepeth/Williams Middle School of the Arts, spoke about the impact of STEAM learning on student achievement and school climate. Hill described her school as a place to foster hope and joy through arts learning. Their stories were paired with photos and videos, revealing students captivated by arts learning. The photos of students immersed in creative experimentation, critical thinking, and problem solving spoke volumes!
The Art of Sustainability concluded by connecting to Arts Ed Now, New Jersey’s statewide arts education public awareness campaign, and a demonstration of the many resources that are available at www.artsednow.org. Many of us have grown to love the familiar Arts Ed Now rally cry, “Active creative learning is good for all students, and good for New Jersey! Let’s Do More.” Robust arts programs foster active creative learning, which is one of the first principles of iSTEAM. In practice, rigorous integrative STEAM learning is known to “stimulate student inquiry, dialogue, and critical thinking” that can be applied to real world challenges outside the classroom.
As the Arts Ed Now ambassadors continue to spread the campaign message, the collective impact of the work grows more evident. When each of us asks, “How might my local action advance collective goals?” we increase the possibility of making new connections between our efforts and the efforts of others. The art of sustainability is that of local action and collective impact. To echo a favorite rally cry…Let’s Do More!