The open-ended challenge for second-grade students: Create a pencil holder that will hold a pencil as you walk across the room. The classroom teacher and I decided on an assortment of supplies: paper, oaktag, clothespins, yarn, cardboard tubes, packing “triangles,” plastic rings, tape, glue, and staplers. Students generated questions and tested out the materials before deciding on their final design. This is how a STEAM art design started in an elementary art room.

STEAM art design, Education Closet

Second-grade science curriculum focuses on the matter. The STEM lesson this class worked on a few weeks ago was introduced in a video on Mystery Science, an online science curriculum for grades K-5. For that lesson, students tested different properties of materials and created a hat that would shield them from the sun and absorb sweat.
In our HOT Block arts integration class, we decided to give the students another STEM lesson that added art and design to create some STEAM. The students wrote questions and planned their pencil holder. The only rules were that it had to hold at least one pencil, and they needed to use the materials provided. For this challenge, we decided to leave it open so the students had room to explore, design and create.

pencil holder, STEAM art design, Education Closet

pencil holder, STEAM art design, Education Closet

Building on prior experience, defining problems and asking questions are important skills to practice. Having the opportunity to develop a new pencil holder (or other object or tool) helps students investigate different materials and create objects they can actually use. These tasks align with NGSSCommon Core State Standards, and the National Core Arts Standards. See below for some that were addressed in this second-grade art lesson plan.

pencil holder, STEAM art design, Education Closet

How can you help students learn through the arts and science?

Have you tried any STEAM art design lessons?

I’d love to hear about them. Share in the comments, below!

National Core Arts Standards

Conceiving and developing new artistic ideas and work.
Anchor Standard #1. Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.                                     Anchor Standard #2. Organize and develop artistic ideas and work.
Anchor Standard #3. Refine and complete artistic work.

Next Generation Science Standards

Students who demonstrate understanding can:

K-2-ETS1-1  Ask questions, make observations, and gather information about a situation people want to change to define a simple problem that can be solved through the development of a new or improved object or tool.

Common Core State Standards Connections


RI.2.1 Ask and answer such questions as who, what, where, when, why, and how to demonstrate understanding of key details in a text. (K-2-ETS1-1)

W.2.8 Recall information from experiences or gather information from provided sources to answer a question. (K-2-ETS1-1)