Lena’s Story

As a fifth grader at Montclair Cooperative School, Lena was withdrawn in math class. Her math teacher knew she was an active student in other subjects, especially art, but in math, she struggled.

That same year, Young Audiences collaborated with Montclair on a STEAM residency to use the arts as a nexus for uniting science, technology, engineering and math. Led by teaching artist Ben Pranger, Lena and her classmates took a field trip to see kinetic sculptures and learn about sculptors, their techniques and materials. Students learned design software and used a 3D printer to test their sculptures’ interaction with the elements. With instruction from science and math teachers, and Ben’s creative perspective, students experimented with materials and techniques to design prototypes before making their final pieces.


Lena working on a kinetic sculpture

Lena transformed bike parts into a beautiful, working kinetic sculpture now on display at the school. But more importantly, Lena emerged from the process transformed. With her newly found confidence in her math abilities she even volunteered to lead discussions about the project. Meredith Kates, her math teacher, credits the creative process inherent in the STEAM work with Lena’s math improvements, sharing, “Lena was fascinated that the sculptures evoked an emotional response but required technical expertise. She was drawn to the idea that the artist had to use the ‘whole mind’ to undertake the work.”

Now an eighth grader, Lena is still a leader in the STEAM project, using her newfound confidence in math to creatively solve problems and design new projects—and the possibilities for her future are infinite.

Will you Do Something Beautiful? Inspire a child to make art. Everyday we see the power of the arts to transform students’ learning and their lives. Please give a tax-deductible donation to Young Audiences to support Lena and the thousands of children we serve each year.