Turning STEM into STEAM with Music Education and Service Learning

University of Arkansas music education students work with students from Washington Elementary School in Fayetteville.
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University of Arkansas music education students work with students from Washington Elementary School in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – University of Arkansas Students preparing to be music educators have been turning STEM into STEAM at Washington Elementary School on Monday afternoons this semester. Department of Music students enrolled in the Classroom Instruments in Music Education course are teaching Washington Elementary students from kindergarten to fourth grade on how to make music out of anything while incorporating science, technology, engineering, arts, and math skills as part of a new service learning component to the course.

Students will be making music with everyday items like a drawing or even a piece of fruit by using Makey Makey boards and the Scratch coding program. Makey Makey boards are an invention kit that turns ordinary objects into touch pads that when coupled with MIT Media Lab's computer coding program called Scratch, allows students to create their own instruments. As the semester progresses, university students will assist the Washington Elementary students to design, build, code, and play their own homemade musical instruments.

This program was made possible by a grant through the Service Learning Initiative.  A joint initiative between the University of Arkansas Provost Office and Honors College, the program aims to enhance and grow service learning opportunities in courses throughout the university.

"Service learning is preparing University of Arkansas music education majors to create and implement music lessons that incorporate project-based teaching, creativity, design thinking, tech literacy, collaboration, and problem solving" said Daniel Abrahams, assistant professor of music education. "Incorporating technology into teaching music takes the pressure off school children to become a traditional member of a band, choir, or an orchestra. They can be a designer, digital artist, coder, producer, and musical engineer all at the same time."

The STEAM music class meets every Monday afternoon as part of Washington Elementary School's Creative Cats after school program.

"Students enrolled in Classroom Instruments in Music Education are becoming better educators by learning how to think artistically, and re-engage artists of any age with science by letting them see how STEM can work in the arts in an increasingly interdisciplinary and digital world" said Abrahams.

About the Department of Music: The Department of Music, part of the University of Arkansas's J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, is home to over 300 music students and 38 faculty members and is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music. The multi-disciplinary department annually hosts more than 300 performances by students, faculty and guest artists and offers academic and professional training in performance, composition, ethnomusicology and music education, history, theory and business.


Daniel A. Abrahams, assistant professor
Department of Music
479-575-4701, abrahams@uark.edu


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