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Building a bridge using engineering concepts.

Circuit Game Activity
Young Makers
 Summer Academy 
From idea to prototype
recorded in the 
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Create, Innovate


Why is the SAM Academy an important program to include in your educational program?

Excerpted from:  Reinventing in Arts Education:  Winning America's Future Through Creative Schools.  Presidents Committee on Arts and Humanities.  May 6, 2011


 At this moment in our nation’s history, America’s schools are facing huge challenges, including:

  • Dropout rates that approach 50% in some demographics.
  •  A narrowed curriculum and strict focus on standardized testing that teaches students to fill in multiple choice bubbles instead of how to think creatively and problem solve, skills that are essential for helping them to compete in today’s economy.
  •  An achievement gap between our highest and lowest performing students that is ever widening. Teachers who want to reach out and engage their students, but lack the tools with which to do so.


Two seminal studies with large sample sizes from the late 1990s showed:

  • Low income kids who participated in arts education were 4 more times likely to have high academic achievement and 3 times more likely to have high attendance than those who didn’t.
  •  These students were more likely to be elected to class office and participate in a math or science fair.
  • Arts-engaged low-income students are more likely than their non-arts-engaged peers to have attended and done well in college, build careers, volunteered in their communities and participated in the political process by voting

The conclusion of these recent studies is that on average, arts-engaged low-income students tend to perform more like higher-income students in the many types of comparisons that the studies tracks.


  • Music training is closely correlated with the development of phonological awareness—one of the most important predictors of early reading skills.
  • Children who practiced a specific art form developed improved attention skills and improved general intelligence.
  • Training their attention and focus also leads to improvement in other cognitive domains.
  • Arts Integration techniques, which use multiple senses to repeat information cause more information to be stored in long-term—as opposed to short-term memory, and may actually change the structure of the neurons.


Arts integration is a field particularly promising area for further development. Recent research has shown impressive results in reaching the lowest performing learners, and raising test scores without narrowing the curriculum.

  • CAPE (Chicago Arts Partnership in Education) was a school-wide model for arts integration. The 19 Chicago elementary schools operating the CAPE model showed consistently higher average scores on the district’s reading and mathematics assessments over a six year period when compared to all district elementary schools.
  • Last year, Montgomery County, Maryland compared three arts integration-focused schools (AIMS) to three control schools over a three-year period. They found that AIMS schools with the highest percentage of minority and low-income students reduced the reading gap by 14 percentage points and the math gap by 26 percentage points over a three-year period. In the control schools, the number of proficient students actually went down 4.5%. 
  • The Montgomery County evaluation also closely tracked the experiences of classroom teachers as they learned how to integrate the arts. Almost all teachers (79%) agreed that they had “totally changed their teaching” and (94%) that they had gained “additional ways of teaching critical thinking skills.”
  • North Carolina’s and Oklahoma’s network of A+ Schools is a whole-school reform model.  Everybody participates in professional development in arts integration, from the principal to the cafeteria lady. It incorporates Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, recent brain research findings, and dance, drama, music,  visual art, and creative writing. These school tracked consistent gains in student achievement as compared to state and district averages.
  • Importantly, years of research in both NC and OK A+ Schools show that A+ students consistently score as well or higher on statewide reading and mathematics assessments as students from more advantaged schools.


Excerpted from: High Hopes - Few Opportunities: The Status of Elementary Science Education in California. Sacramento, CA. The Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning at WestEd. 2011. 

On the national level, the Presidents' Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) concluded that the U.S. response to the challenges of the 21st century "will be the effectiveness of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education" (PCAST, 2010).
  • 74% of Californians are convinced that Science should be a higher priority for California schools because it keeps both the United States and California at the forefront of technology and innovation.
  • 69% are persuaded that science helps young people compete in a global marketplace and become engaged citizens.
  • 62% believe that making science a higher priority will attract industry to the state and provide a gateway to higher paying jobs.

The central finding of this report points to the need for significant improvement: children rarely encounter high-quality Science learning opportunities in California elementary schools because the conditions that would support them are rarely in place.
  • Only about 10% of the students in the state experience Science instruction that regularly engages them in the practices of Science - the vision of quality science learning offered by the National Research Council (NRC, 2007, 2011).
  • 40% of elementary teachers in grades K-5 in the survey reported that their students receive 60 minutes or less of science instruction per week.
  • More than 85% of elementary teachers have not received any science-related professional development the last 3 years.
  • Teachers in schools serving higher numbers of students in poverty reported lack of facilities and equipment as a major challenge to providing science instruction than were teachers in more affluent schools.
  • 66% of teachers report they receive little to no support in assessing their students' Science learning.
  • 99% of California principals believe that providing all students a strong background in Science is important.
  • 92% of principals believe science instruction should begin in kindergarten.
  • Overall, district support for elementary science is limited.  Over 60% of districts have no staff dedicated to Elementary Science.
  • 75% of principals report their school does not have access to a Science specialist or coach. 


The United States has a long proud history of innovation and creativity. This is one of our greatest assets and what will give our workforce an edge in an increasingly competitive global economy. But to do this, we need to prepare the next generation of inventors, designers and creators. Business leaders are already asking for this. They recognize that this is essential for our schools to be teaching children how to think outside the box and to address challenges with creative solutions.   And policy makers and parents are concerned because they see how the current education system is failing to give our children the tools they need reach their full potential. 

What Schools, Districts, and Policy Makers Can Do:

  • Devote adequate instructional time and resources to Science in grade K-5.
  • Ensure that their STEM curricula are focused on the most important topics in each discipline, are rigorous, and are articulated as a sequence of topics and performances.
  • Enhance the capacity of K-12 teachers.
What Parents Can Do:
  • Visit Science Museums, Zoos, Botanical Gardens, Planetariums, and other Science Centers.
  • Get children involved in science camps, workshops, or other programs.
  • Do family Science activities.
  • Encourage children to get involved with science competitions such as Science Olympiad, Science Fair, Math Counts, Math Olympiad, etc.
  • Encourage schools to offer more Science instruction.

Arts education is a solution to many of these problems that has been hiding in plain sight. This is largely because it remains siloed, from the macro to the micro level. At the policy level, arts education advocacy is seen as something different and separate from the larger conversation of educational reform. And in schools, arts specialists classes are too often marginalized as something that gives the classroom teachers a planning period, while teaching artists are asked to parachute in and out in two or three week residencies, without ever being able to build relationships and integrate into the school community. But in fact, the potential of arts education lies in exactly the opposite—a seamless marriage of arts education strategies with overall educational goals, a vibrant collaboration between arts specialists, classroom teachers and teaching artists to create collaborative, creative environments that allow each child to reach his or her potential, using all the tools at our disposal to reach and engage them in learning.

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