Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Full STEAM Ahead

I've been reading and thinking about STEAM (science, tech, engineering, art and math) labs.  I've been watching a colleague implement many, many innovative and state-of-the-art teaching strategies and tools to turn her classroom into a STEAM lab, and what I've noticed has challenged me to move my classroom further in that direction.

Students in her room are peacefully engaged.  They're excited.  They are learning incredible things in all areas of the curriculum. One student told his brother, "It's not even like school, we have fun all the time."  Another spent his day at home engineering an electromagnet with his dad using the film she provided as a guide, and a third returned to my class after science with this teacher and couldn't stop talking about the electricity game he was playing online. What she's doing exemplifies one of Hattie's critical points in Making Learning Visible for Teachers: engagement matters, and it matters a lot!

When it's project time in her room the choices are varied and broad, the tools extensive and her coaching wonderful.

What does this mean for my work, our grade-level's work and our school?

First, it means that I have the ready opportunity to learn from a teacher next door, actually teachers on both sides of me since the teacher on the other side is exploring all kinds of new avenues to make math meaningful, engaging, hands-on and project centered.

Next, this reality gives us a great opportunity to start thinking about how we might restructure the schedule next year to better match our individual gifts and skills with the curriculum.  Students rotate now, but perhaps we'll have a chance to look at those rotations with a different kind of scheduling and intent so each teacher has the chance to better perfect units and teach to their strengths.

After that, it's time we started making supply lists and grant drafts so we can get the tools and supplies we need.  For starters we need another cart of computers (iPads would be the choice, we currently share a class cart of laptops which are wonderful too) and more hands-on building tools and supplies.

This is the start of some great new ideas and teaching strategies--ideas and strategies children are eager for.  I have a feeling that after this it will be full STEAM ahead!

p.s. Full STEAM ahead with the inevitable bumps in the road of course.

p.s.s. Your ideas, links and questions are always welcome.