Friday, January 18, 2013

STEAM: Labs, Tools and Play

Nifty new ideas are wonderful to discuss and ponder, but it is essential that new ideas in education are meaningful, child-centered, productive ideas.

I am exploring the idea of STEAM labs for elementary schools.  My recent post, Full STEAM Ahead, begins the discussion.

Yesterday, I had more time to explore this idea while I played with Sketch-up, a tool that I can imagine becoming part of a STEAM lab as children try to solve problems with design.

As I played around with Sketch-up, I was brought into the learner's mindset.  I found myself clicking all the menu bar choices, using trial and error, and exploring the tool with depth.  The play reminded me of the fact that we need to give children time to explore tools in their own ways, not just in the ways we decide--a concept many are discussing on the web--one that's been inspired, in part, by Will Richardson's book, Why School? 

I was also reminded of the fact that wonderful, new tools change the way we approach and think about design and problem solving.  I could have drawn my imagined STEAM lab, but it would have taken me hours to gain the right perspective and revise repeatedly.  Instead with Sketch-up, I could simply edit again and again as I played with the notion of a STEAM lab, and I could also easily look at the lab from many perspectives as depicted in the film below. The illustrated lab is still missing integral features--one I couldn't figure out how to draw yet such as windows, greater detail for the cabinets, feature boards (giant touch flat screen computers, cork board and white boards), the outdoor explore area and lab tables.

I welcome your thoughts and ideas as STEAM takes shape.  I'm hoping that we'll adopt some aspects of this idea at our grade-level next year, and perhaps this is an idea that will take shape for elementary schools around the country.

Soulard School STEAM Example