Wolf Trap Celebrates Arts in Education Week with the Launch of First-of-its-Kind Early Childhood STEM Learning Through the Arts Initiative

Vienna, VA—Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts announced today the launch of an innovative Early Childhood STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) Learning Through the Arts initiative that builds upon Wolf Trap’s 30-year history developing and delivering early-childhood arts education programs. This new initiative will infuse STEM learning into pre-K and Kindergarten classrooms using arts-based learning approaches, leveraging decades of experience Wolf Trap has working with public schools and Head Start centers. Through classroom residencies and professional development workshops, Wolf Trap Teaching Artists will work alongside educators to develop and implement new strategies and content that correlate fundamentals of dance, drama, and music with math/science learning outcomes in areas such as geometry/spatial relations, number/operations, pattern, measurement, and math reasoning.

In support of the initiative, the United States Department of Education (DOE) has awarded Wolf Trap $300,628 for the initial phase of a four-year, $1.15 million grant—the only grant in the program awarded in the state of Virginia. First-year funding, under the Arts Education Model Development and Dissemination grant program, will support program planning, development, and research efforts to be conducted in Fairfax County Public Schools. By the end of the grant period, Wolf Trap partner organizations will replicate the program in 10 regions around the country.

“We believe our work could make a substantial difference in how teachers teach and how children learn,” said Terrence Jones, president and CEO of the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts. “The high level of research involved in this program will allow us to prove the arts should be integral to STEM education for young children.”

The Wolf Trap Institute is an internationally respected program that provides innovative arts-based teaching strategies and services in more than 1,000 classrooms serving 35,000 young children, parents, educators, and teaching artists each year. Since 1981 the Institute has been integrating the arts—including music, movement, storytelling, and drama into preschool and Kindergarten curriculum to enhance language, literacy, math, and science learning. By adding this latest initiative to its core services, Wolf Trap brings nearly three decades of experience in early-childhood arts education to enhance STEM learning using its proven techniques and teaching models.

Wolf Trap Arts Education Bridges Two National Priorities: STEM and Early-Childhood Education

Current and past White House administrations have deemed both STEM and early childhood education national priorities in light of the facts that U.S. students are falling behind students from other countries in science and math achievement, and that research proves high-quality early-childhood education plays a critical role in influencing learning. Wolf Trap is taking a national leadership role in bridging these two education priorities by infusing the creativity of high-quality arts education into early-childhood STEM learning.

Wolf Trap Teaching Artists will begin working side-by-side with early-childhood educators this fall to integrate arts into math learning. Early Childhood Specialist with Fairfax County Office for Children Maria Gallagher recently participated in Wolf Trap’s Professional Development Summer Institute working with the Teaching Artists to build on strategies that integrate the arts into math learning. 

“Math is truly everywhere in our lives, in cooking, getting dressed, figuring out money, and travel time, among many other examples,” said Maria Gallagher, M. ED., early childhood specialist with the Fairfax County Office for Children. “With the arts, early-childhood educators can take math off the printed page and make it three dimensional so young children can feel it and relate to it.”

The DOE-funded Initiative

Wolf Trap’s Early Childhood STEM Learning Through the Arts initiative will focus on the development, documentation, and dissemination of innovative, research-based models that integrate arts into early childhood STEM learning.

Over a four-year period, the research program will target 1,440 pre-K and Kindergarten children in Title I Fairfax County Public Schools, and their teachers, parents, and caregivers. Program components will include in-school residencies, professional development for teaching artists and educators, independent research publication, and dissemination of results nationally through Wolf Trap’s Regional Program partners and professional associations.

“This program shows excellent promise to promote student achievement through experience in the arts. Fairfax County Public Schools welcomes the opportunity to partner with Wolf Trap and to benefit from its long experience in providing workshops for children and early-childhood educators,” said Jack Dale, superintendent of Fairfax County Public Schools.

The program will be developed by Wolf Trap Foundation staff and teaching artists of the Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts. Major partners will include the administrators and teachers of Fairfax County Public Schools, evaluators from the American Institute for Research, and nationally recognized early-childhood experts. 

“Our country is standing at the crossroads in STEM learning, and it is inspiring to know that organizations like Wolf Trap stand poised to lead us in the right direction,” said Lester L. Lyles, General, U.S. Air Force (Ret.), member of the President's Intelligence Advisory Board, Vice Chairman of the Defense Science Board, and member of the NASA Advisory Council.

Filling a Nationwide Critical Need

Numerous studies, such as the National Research Council’s 2009 report, “Mathematics Learning in Early Childhood: Paths Toward Excellence and Equity,” among others, have clearly stated that high-quality preschool programs are critical to close the achievement gap for children from low-income families compared to those from more advantaged backgrounds. With this grant, Wolf Trap will develop an effective research-based model that can be shared with early-childhood educators nationwide.

Because this may be the only program dedicated to STEM learning through the arts specifically in early-childhood education, dissemination is a critical component. The model program will be replicated in at least 10 Wolf Trap Regional Programs, a network of partner organizations around the U.S. that regularly share information. Information on the model also will be shared across the industry at national arts, education, and STEM-focused conferences, in publications, and online to guide other arts organizations and school systems.

About The Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts

The Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, founded by Catherine Filene Shouse (1896-1994), produces and presents a full range of performance and education programs in the Greater Washington area, as well as nationally and internationally. Wolf Trap features three performance venues, the outdoor Filene Center and Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods, both located at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, and the Barns at Wolf Trap, located down the road from the park and adjacent to the Center for Education at Wolf Trap. In partnership with the National Park Service, The 7,028-seat Filene Center annually showcases an extensive list of diverse artists, ranging from pop, country, folk, and blues to classical music, dance, and theater, as well as multimedia presentations, from May through September.  The Barns operates year round, and during the summer months is home to the Grammy-nominated Wolf Trap Opera Company, one of America’s outstanding resident ensemble programs for young opera singers. Wolf Trap’s education programs include the nationally acclaimed Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts, Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods, a diverse array of arts education classes, scholarships, and a nationally recognized internship program that was included in Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s 2009 List of “Best Places to Intern.” As part of its ongoing commitment to protect and preserve the environment, Wolf Trap offers metro access and is a founding member of the Green Music Group. Terrence D. Jones is president and CEO of the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts.

Visit the Wolf Trap Web site at www.wolftrap.org for more information.