Picking Up STEAM: Musicians Mesh Art and Science for Students

Education and Outreach / Community Impact

Artists from New York City-based Bash the Trash with musical instruments made from reused and repurposed materials


It was the perfect collaboration. The Smith Center, the Discovery Children's Museum and four artists from Bash The Trash worked together to bring approximately 1,250 Third to Fifth Grade students into the world of art and science.

Bash The Trash, based in New York and Los Angeles, builds, performs and educates with musical instruments made from reused and repurposed materials. The Smith Center and the Discovery Children's Museum met with the organization several months ago to put the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) project together for February 22-26. “The goal of the project was to create a fully immersive day-long performance/workshop event for students that highlighted both the arts and the sciences,” said John Bertles, co-founder of Bash The Trash.

“This was an opportunity for us (The Smith Center and Discovery Children's Museum) to collaborate in a very authentic way, one that is rooted in the arts and in the sciences,” said Candy Schneider, Vice President of Education and Outreach for The Smith Center. Tifferney White, CEO and President of Discovery Children's Museum, added, "We are especially proud of this partnership as it was created as an integrated team between both organizations from concept through execution. I wholeheartedly believe this is why the approach was so innovative and the resulting experience so rich."

Due to the length of the presentation, it was important that “we could both facilitate the performance piece to inspire students and excite and engage them as they went over to the museum to continue the experience,” said Schneider.

The division of inspired labor was reflected in performances at The Smith Center’s Troesh Studio Theater, where the husband-and-wife creative team of Bertles and Carina Piaggio, along with two other artists from Bash The Trash, took students on a "sound tour" of the various instruments built from repurposed discarded materials; then a transition for the students to the museum to create instruments, learn the science of sound, and incorporate music and movement to create lyrics and dance; and a return (instruments in hand) to the Troesh Studio Theater to join the musicians for a final performance, utilizing what they learned. There was even time for lunch with an emphasis on lessons of composting and responsibly disposing of materials. Quite the STEAM project!

Bertles’ work was not limited to the students. He also led three after-school professional development workshops for teachers as well. And, earlier in February, The Smith Center and The Desert Research Institute (DRI) partnered to have Bertles present a workshop on “Sounds of Science” for area teachers.

Bash The Trash explores how art and science work together. Art and science, as well as The Smith Center and the Discovery Children's Museum, all worked seamlessly together for an experience that the students will remember for a long time!


Elementary school students watching Bash the Trash at the Discovery Children's Museum