STEAM art activities podcast header

STEAM art activities that spark creativity and imagination [Podcast]

The week on The Preschool Podcast we are excited to welcome Lucy Song. Lucy is the proud author of Awesome Art Activities for Kids: 20 STEAM Projects to Spark Creativity and Imagination. We discuss her favorite STEAM art activities for children and how to spark creativity and imagination at all ages and stages!

Equity, inclusion, and diversity are embedded in Lucy’s work. Growing up, she remembers a time when she didn’t have a glue stick, so her parents encouraged her to use other materials such as sticky rice for glue. Lucy is passionate that all children have the ability to learn. STEAM was introduced to her as a way to modernize education and prepare children for future jobs.

Specifically, Lucy views art as putting in creativity and injecting imagination to help propel children to be more innovative and have an impact on the world in the future. An example of one of her favorite activities is to take post-it notes and paste them on the wall to make an emoji. Then, relate the concept of an emoji to technology and learning. Taking something analog and creating something digital with it can be so powerful!

However, there is more to art than just paintings and drawings. Art gives you the space to reflect on the world around you and where you belong. Children have a beginner’s mindset and accessing that as you get older, doing things as you have never seen them, shifting your mind as if you were doing things for the first time, can help with creativity and imagination. Being more childlike can unleash creativity!

Sometimes, however, even with young children, we can run into problems sparking creativity. The most challenging moment to spark creativity in children is when they are upset about something. That is a barrier to creativity. In these moments, try to embrace a growth mindset and work on process art. The end result is not always the focus but enjoying the process and focusing on how the process engages your senses can be just as beneficial!

Listen to the full episode for free!

Lucy’s recommended resources:

Podcast episode transcript

Lucy SONG:

Including art, to me, is really about putting in that creativity and injecting in that imagination in those fields to really help propel kids to be more innovative and to create an impact in the fields that they go into when they graduate and start working.

Ron SPREEUWENBERG: 

Lucy, welcome to the Preschool Podcast!

SONG:

Hi, thank you, Ron. Thank you for having me here today!

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Of course, we’re delighted to have you with us today. For our listeners, we have with us Lucy Song. She’s an author, educator and creative director. We’re going to chat with Lucy today about art activities and STEAM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math] projects and all the amazing things that kids can do to spark creativity and imagination. So Lucy, let’s start off learning a little bit about you. Tell us about yourself.

SONG:

So, I kind of see myself through this lens of before having a child and after having a child. Before having my child, I was a creative director at La Chateau. And my life was a bit of a hustle waking up at 5 a.m., catching flights to Montreal, back and forth. I hardly ever saw my husband. But after having my child, I kind of slowed things down as much as I could. I’m now a part time professor of Urban Design at Seneca College. I wake up at a cool 7:00AM. I really wanted to spend more time with my family. And that really became a priority for me.

And sort of this parenthood journey kind of took me back through, has a way of going through your own childhood and kind of asking yourself questions like, “What made me happiest as a child?” And as I was asking all these things, I realized that I always put aside that I wanted to become an educator. So, that’s the path I took. And it’s been five years.

And I started with teaching at Seneca College. And then I started my own website with www.Wonder.co, where I sell printables for kids, for teachers and parents to use to teach the kids at home. And that kind of paved the way to writing this new book, Awesome Art Activities For Kids.

And it was kind of inspired by my own childhood. I was born in Canada, but my parents immigrated from Korea. And we didn’t have a lot growing up. And one of the things that I always had to do to keep myself occupied without toys and things was I did a lot of arts-and-crafts projects at home with what I had. And actually I still have some of the books that I learned from Sheila McGraw, who wrote Love You Forever. She also wrote a few arts-and-crafts books, which I still have today. And that’s kind of what inspired me to write this book and kind of where I’m at today and who I am.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Cool. So, you’ve done a lot of writing and creating. What is sort of like… do you have kind of like a philosophy or kind of like a theme or something that you kind of thread through a lot of your work?

SONG:

I do. A lot of it has to do with equity, inclusion and diversity. And that’s what I try to thread through my work as the “new normal”, I suppose you would say. But I don’t really advertise it in that way. But it is a philosophy that I try to include in it. And it changes the way I look at the materials that I ask kids to use and open up their mind about how they’re going to use this material or if they don’t have it, what else they could use. Growing up, I had no glue. Like, I didn’t have a clue stick. So, my parents would tell me to use sticky rice and mush it down and use that as my paste. So, that is, at the heart of it, how I kind of make the resources that I do to make sure that it’s always open-ended in that way.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Yeah, and certainly those are real challenges. So, very cool that you’ve thought about that. And so your book is called Awesome Art Activities For Kids: 20 STEAM Projects To Spark Creativity And Imagination. Given we’re talking about STEAM, let’s talk a little bit more about what that is and what that means to you.

SONG:

Yeah, so most people know it as STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Math]. And it’s slowly changing into STEAM and I want to be part of that change. To me, STEAM I feel like really got introduced into education to really modernize education, in terms of the fields that we’re trying to nurture the children to enter. So, including art, to me, is really about putting in that creativity and injecting in that imagination in those fields to really help propel kids to be more innovative and to create an impact in the fields that they go into when they graduate and start working.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

And how does your work and the activities you’ve designed spark that creativity and imagination? And maybe you can give an example to bring that to life a little bit for our audience.

SONG:

That’s a really good question. I would say that in the book, throughout the book, there are STEAM connections and fun facts. And in there children can read about inspirational leaders and how they’ve done it or how things have been done in the past and how they’re done today. An example would be just cool, fun facts. Like, there’s an activity in the book where you take post-it notes and you grid it onto a wall and you create like an emoji icon. And then I talk about how that relates to technology and how emoji’s are really essentially pixels. And it talks about those kinds of inspirations and how kids can really take something that’s analog and create a digital connection to it.

And you can see those emoji icons at the MoMA [Museum of Modern Art] currently today. So, even little things like that, an artist is an artist and that things like that can be showcased. And a lot of people think of art as paintings. And especially children, when they’re introduced to the art world, it’s usually paintings and drawings. There’s a little bit more to it than that and showing that kind of inspiration and kind of expanding their horizon.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

That’s very cool, connecting the art piece to the technology piece. Especially in the digital world that our young children are going to grow up in, it’s important to understand that. So, I love that connection piece. What’s one of your favorite activities from the book?

SONG:

I would say my favorite is probably the first one that comes up in the book because it kind of sets the stage and tone of the book. It’s a really simple activity where you take a little scraps of sheets of paper and you cut them into strips and you create kind of a line sculpture with them. And what they’re doing with that is they’re creating a map of their neighborhoods.

So, the first prompt that I give in the book is to go out and wander your neighborhood, doodle all the shapes that you see. And it really helps reinforce that art helps also with giving you the space to reflect about the space around you and how you fit in and how you belong. And I think that’s a really great way to start off the book. And it really is my favorite because it kind of sets the tone. But still it’s creative, you’re still creating a sculpture. It’s a little bit of everything that I hope that the book kind of talks about.

And connecting to the STEAM world, I talked about civil engineering and urban planning and what it takes to plan out your neighborhood. And I like to plan out. They have to think about how many people live in this neighborhood, how they have access to parking lots. So, those are the little tidbits that I add in there to connect it all together. And I think it’s a really great first project and it’s the easiest of them all. And it really sets the tone.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Cool. And if somebody is using your activities in the classroom, is it designed to be able to do that? And if so, any recommendations for how to do the activities in a classroom, working with multiple children in a class, versus in the home setting?

SONG:

Yeah, for sure. I think that a lot of the projects can be done in the classroom. I had educators in mind, classrooms in mind for the projects. There are simple projects like doing like the white wax crayon and painting on top. Those are simple activities that are already being done in classrooms. But I kind of take it to the next level and add some more information in there on how you can make it more creative and fun.

So I say, on a piece of paper, observe animal patterns and then take some shapes and trace it to create an animal face. But it doesn’t have to be what you’d expect it to be. So, you can create an elephant face with cheetah prints. And really trying to break that you can break rules, too. You don’t always have to match things the way that they, quote unquote, “should be”. So, those are simple things. A lot of that is spread throughout the book. Really simple things that are already kind of what educators are probably used to in the classroom, but also putting and adding a little bit more information or a twist to the end of it.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Cool. So, I’m always impressed with young children’s creativity and imagination. But I feel like I get less and less creative and imaginative as I get older. And I’m sure other adults feel that way. Any suggestions for adults that are listening to this podcast in terms of how they can embrace creativity and imagination, either working with children or in their own life, just generally?

SONG:

It’s funny, Pablo Picasso actually has that famous quote, “Every child is an artist.” And the second part of that quote is actually, it’s how to stay that way as you grow up. So, it is something that’s time and time and again, we all know and go through. For me, what I would say is, what children have, they have this mindset, this beginner’s mindset, this beginner’s mind.

And I think accessing that and tapping into that, doing things like you’ve never seen it, even though you’ve done it over and over again. But to really try to shift your mind into thinking, “Oh, what if I was doing this for the first time again?” And really embracing that. That personally helps me in my own creativity and imagination. And I think that’s something that we should all embrace to be a little bit more childlike.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Totally. That’s a good, practical recommendation. And we also want to spark that creativity and imagination with the children we’re working with in the classroom. Any thoughts there, in terms of getting that conversation going? And things that we can do to spark that imagination in the classroom? And sometimes, some days, it’s harder than other days. And with some children in specific situations, it might be more difficult.

SONG:

I think with children, the hardest moment to spark creativity and imagination is when they’re upset about something, when they’re trying to get to an end task and it doesn’t turn out the way that they had envisioned it. And then that becomes this barrier to creativity for children because they’re naturally already very curious and creative. And that is actually the moment that I think we grow up as adults to actually hang on to, and then we start to limit ourselves.

So, in working in that moment when they’re upset about something, or it didn’t turn out the way that they wanted to, is really to embrace two things. And I think many educators already do this, but to embrace growth mindset. There’s a project in the book where it’s completely about that garbage bin of paper that you’ve crumpled up and thrown away because you’re upset because it didn’t turn out the way you want. The drawing didn’t turn out the way you wanted it. And to pick it up and turn that into something imaginative.

So, I say to take that and paper maché it, paint it, let it evolve on its own. And that is really the heart of what process art is. So, that’s the second thing, to do more art activities in the classroom that embrace process art where the end result is not always the focus, but enjoying the process and focusing on how the process, with engaging all your senses and more talking about the connecting the conversation to that. And then you end up with something that may be great or not great, but to really focus more on that than on the end, what it should become or should be. And I think that really helps.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Cool. Yeah, that’s great tips. Alright, so we want to tell the audience a little bit more about your book and where to find it. Before we do, any professional development or learning resources you would recommend our listeners check out?

SONG:

Personally, in my own journey, I’m really loving this book by Kat Holmes. It’s called Mismatch: How Inclusion Shapes Design. I think that a lot of us struggled through Covid-19 on creating resources that are more digital and keeping inclusion in mind. And I think this book really helped kind of change my mindset and the framework in how I approach things. And I think that’s really great book that I think every educator should read.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Great, thanks for sharing that. And speaking of books, what about your book? Where can folks go to find that?

SONG:

The book is available anywhere where books are sold. So, it’s available on Amazon, Indigo, Barnes and Noble’s. It’s everywhere. So, it’s really easy to find, just Google it.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Cool. And as a reminder to everybody, that book is called Awesome Art Activities For Kids: 20 STEAM Projects to Spark Creativity and Imagination by our very own Lucy Song that we’re chatting to today. Lucy, it’s been an absolute pleasure speaking with you today and getting some of your points of view on how we can use activities and different projects to spark creativity and imagination in our youngest children and also in ourselves!

SONG:

Great, thank you so much, Ron. It was a pleasure to be here!

Christie White

Christie is a Senior Content Marketing Specialist at HiMama. She is passionate about children's development, parenting, and supporting the child care industry. She has been working to support child care centers with their events and marketing for almost a decade. In her personal life, Christie lives in Stouffville, ON with her husband Kyle and dog Tucker. She enjoys going for walks, baking, cooking, and watching reality tv!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.