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Adding an A to STEM

The Science of ISECream & Color Theory: STEAM on Display with Santa Fe Public Schools

Dozens of kids were shaking baggies filled with ice and salt that contained another bag inside with cream, sugar, and vanilla at Santa Fe Public Schools' Back to School Bash on Saturday, September 15, 2018. This annual fall event brings together district schools, departments, and community partners in celebration of the school year.

 “I think it’s ice cream! Will you check it for me?” 

After five minutes of shaking, learners of all ages were eagerly awaiting the change in matter from liquid to solid at the LANL Foundation’s experiential “ISECream” display. They learned about the difference between solutions—the cream and added ingredients—and mixtures by adding solid sprinkles or chocolate chips during the exploration led by ISEC Program Manager Bryan Maestas and Materials Coordinator Monica Herrera. Several volunteer helpers were kept busy measuring ingredients and filling bags.

Bryan Maestas and Monica Herrera led the investigation

As an extension of the science exploration, the kids used food color to tint their ice cream. A partnership with the SFPS Arts Department and the vision of Arts Education Coordinator Lisa Fisher and LANL Foundation K–12 Program Director Gwen Perea Warniment, led to the change in focus of the ISEC display from just STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) to STEAM, adding an art lesson and letter A.

At a second station, students mixed primary colors of tempera paint to create secondary colors. Then they made tints by combining colors with white and blended several colors together to make a neutral brown. The colors on their palette were used to paint an ice cream cone, inspired by the work of pop artist Wayne Thiebaud, who paints colorful confections in muted tints.

Arts Education Coordinator Lisa Fisher works with an artist and hands out sketchbooks

”How do I make purple for my ice cream cone? Purple is my favorite color,” said one young artist.

Using the color wheel, she saw how primary colors of red and blue make violet. Adding different amounts of each to her paper plate, with a few dabs of white, she got it just right.

”I think purple ice cream would taste like strawberry, no, raspberry,” she speculated.

Key elements from the New Mexico Core Arts Standards were at play in the exploration. ISEC Materials Specialist and professional artist Isaac Ortiz illustrated the standards—creating, performing/presenting/producing, responding, connecting—to bring them to the forefront. Ortiz and colleague Nick Garcia assisted the SFPS art teachers with the creative activity.

Isaac Ortiz and Nick Garcia

Some students combined ideas from both stations, adding a few colors into their cream solution, then mixing paints to try and match the tint of their ice cream on paper. Others mixed paints and chose subjects other than ice cream for their creative expression. Everyone had a lot of fun bringing STEAM to life!

Click to learn more about the ISEC program that delivers experiential learning materials, grade-specific and standards-aligned STEM curriculum, and teacher professional development to elementary schools throughout Northern New Mexico.