Art is Everywhere: Teacher Integrates STEM Plus Art Learning into Her Classroom

Darla Rodriguez received her Integrative STEM Education Certificate from Lebanon Valley College

Darla Rodriguez is nearing 20 years of teaching art in the Pine Grove Area School District. But, drawing and painting aren’t all this art teacher shares with her students. Instead, Rodriguez weaves together the essential subjects of STEM plus Art into her learning curriculum. Using her art classroom, she covers the important aspects of design and aesthetics regarding STEM subjects. 

“The elements and principles of art and design match at least one aspect of STEM—integration is a must for any STEM teacher. I like discovering how we can compare leaf designs to ancient artifact fossils and make our own in clay and still have it link to STEM and Art seamlessly. The use of art materials and how to use them to solve STEM design problems adds to the aesthetic topics, but also to the tactile use of methods of design to solve a STEM design problem,” said Rodriguez.

So how did Rodriguez go about bringing STEM plus Art learning into a traditional art classroom? This process began with her understanding of STEM through a deep dive into the subjects through her enrollment in LVC’s graduate Integrative STEM Education Certificate. It’s a four-course program that takes place online and on LVC’s campus.

“I would suggest every teacher take at least one STEM education course to get a taste of how to utilize integration of the STEM plus Art topics to enhance student learning through hands-on design solutions,” she said.

And though taking on the STEM certification while teaching full time may sound intimidating, Rodriguez is proof that is it a doable and worthwhile task for the payoffs that come in the classroom. 

With her new LVC certification, Rodriguez can more confidently combine STEM plus Art to make connections across her students’ disciplines. She also gives her students a place where they can learn and work on teambuilding skills. 

“I utilize STEM topics as a means of integration for all grade levels. For example, when discussing clay projects, students are reminded that clay is sedimentary in water, just like when you go in the water when dad is fishing. Students get the concept because in a rural community, students all fish and know it stirs up the water’s making the water dirty and chasing the fish away. We recycle clay in my room, and students get to feel and see the water clear at the top and feel to mix the various sediments that make up a clay body,” said Rodriguez. “When fired in a kiln, clay makes a chemical change. Students always see that pottery shards are found all over the world from ancient cultures. Learning about the science of clay, and the engineering of early pottery works are important connections to the arts that are often overlooked.”

Eventually, Rodriguez would like to work with the school’s in-house STEM teacher, who also completed LVC’s Integrative STEM Certificate. However, this idea is on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions on group work. As she continues through her career, Rodriguez hopes to help other teachers learn to implement STEM plus Art learning into their classrooms and discover how to make connections across the disciplines in the seamless ways that she has done with her art students. 


-- Darby Seymour, Marketing & Communications Student Assistant