STEAMing up STEM: Visual Arts and Maker Culture as a Vehicle for Student Engagement and Collaboration on a STEM campus

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Valk, Alison
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As programming within academic libraries evolves, librarians have moved beyond traditional information literacy instruction to an environment in which they create strong partnerships with the campus faculty, community and beyond. This paper addresses one such specialized partnership and unique library program, providing an overview of newly formed initiatives at the Georgia Tech Library. This instructional model may serve as a framework for other institutions considering non-traditional partnerships in library educational programming. The Communication through Art program involves a collaboration between campus faculty, the library, local artists and a community center focused on DIY culture and ephemeral media. One of the many challenges on college campuses is finding new ways to engage students with their course material. Often limited by the constraints of traditional classroom spaces and layouts, college instructors are increasingly looking to collaborate with campus and community partners on unique student projects, but often lack the resources or time to adequately plan for such an endeavor. Libraries, with their evolving flexible spaces and commitment to changing pedagogies, are ideally positioned to facilitate interdisciplinary programs. Libraries by nature touch on every discipline, and often librarians can recognize relevant synergies and beneficial educational partnerships ahead of the curve. Bringing librarians, campus educators and community artists into the course planning process together can make the educational experience both more rewarding for the student and beneficial to the instructor of record. Our creative team developed a series of library workshops that incorporated the visual arts into the curriculum. What makes this library program unique is the primary educational focus on the campus. On a largely STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) focused campus, librarians and faculty utilized the visual arts as a vehicle for student engagement. This paper will discuss the benefits of this inquiry-based model of learning, as well as outline the practical aspects of how this program was planned, implemented and assessed.
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