Full ‘STEAM’ Ahead at Butler Institute

YOUNGSTOWN, Oho — Surrounded by artwork ranging from centuries old to present day, nearly 70 seventh-grade art students Tuesday applied what they are learning in school to what has been created by artists through the years.

Students from Boardman Glenwood Junior High School visited the Butler Institute of American Art as part of Youth Art Month.

For the first hour, students toured the museum, learning how science, technology, engineering and math went into much of the art on display. During the second hour, students participated in hands-on activities based on the STEAM disciplines – science, technology, engineering, arts and math – teacher Ryan Mistovich said. 

Mistovich – who teamed with Butler education director Joyce Mistovich, his mother and a former art teacher herself, for the program – said the field trip served a couple purposes. 

Students James Diaz and Emmjey Gonzalez observe an interactive piece at the Butler museum.

First, over the course of the last two years many in-person field trips were halted due to the pandemic, he said. Also, about half of the students Tuesday had never been to the museum. So the trip provided the opportunity for them to ask questions and learn about the artwork, applying what they’ve learned in the classroom to works of art.

The art curriculum at Boardman Glenwood aligns with the educational components at the Butler, Joyce Mistovich said. 

“I thought, ‘We need to reach out to a school system, and bring students in and have a STEAM-based tour with hands-on art activities,’” she said. 

Chelsea Wisbar, who teaches art at the school, joined the students on Tuesday’s trip. Her curriculum focuses on STEAM-related activities. 

“My main goal as an art teacher is to make art, science, engineering, technology relevant to the kids,” Wisbar said. “We like to incorporate as much as we can to make it relevant to the kids. So when they go to graduate” they use skills learned in her art class to go into engineering or to become a surgeon. 

Developing the fine motor skills in art class can later be translated into different avenues outside of art later in life, Wisbar added.

Wisbar’s drive to marry STEM with the arts came after a grant-funded trip to Yellowstone National Park for art and science teachers that “opened my eyes,” she said. 

At first, having students draw a picture wasn’t inspiring or interesting to students. “You really need to be able to say, ‘This is what you’re learning in science now and here’s how you apply this to my class’” and life, Wisbar said.

For art educators, the arts give everything else in life meaning. “The arts bring that into the substance,” Joyce Mistovich said, referring to the STEM parts. Art will allow for creativity and a unique approach to problem solving.

One of the more popular exhibits that students seemed to gravitate toward Tuesday, along with many school-aged students that visit the museum, is the Beecher Center that houses technology-based art. It features kinetic art that moves or makes students think differently with holograms or sounds.

Marrying art with STEM lessons helps prepare students for the future, Wisbar said. 

“My goal as a teacher is to instill the love of art in them,” and give students a glimpse at how various disciplines are tied together.

Pictured at top: Seventh-grade art students from Boardman Glenwood Junior High School tour The Butler Institute of American Art in downtown Youngstown.

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