Friday, August 16, 2013

Building Something that Matters: STEAM Share and Environmental Awareness

One of the best ways to start the school year is to identify one or two initiatives that you're really excited about. That brings the passion, energy, and learning focus to the forefront.

When our team met this week we carefully created a common schedule that includes substantial standards-based efforts in reading, writing, and math as well as the following exciting "new learning" events.

Last year, my energized and passionate colleague and I explored STEAM (science, tech, engineering, art, and math) initiatives in our classrooms.  The children were excited and there was tremendous investment and learning. This year we hope to collaborate and expand our STEAM share efforts more with a designated time each week, students from all fourth grade classrooms, and a grant for maker station materials and supplies.  This effort requires the following steps:
  • Finding time in the busy schedule (we did that!).
  • Research - we've done a lot and will continue to do more.
  • System-wide approval: we've made the requests and have our fingers crossed.
  • Grant writing--once we get approval, we'll research and write the grant.
  • Classroom set-up: we've already planned and in some cases created the initial set-up.
  • Student introduction: I've started putting aside videos and notes for this.
  • Initial Explore Menus: That will be easy since we'll build off last year's efforts starting with the successful projects, processes, and links we used last year then building out as we learn more.
  • Support: Once we get going we'll enlist support from family members and perhaps high school students and other volunteers.  We'll also seek out local tech start-ups who want to try out their products through our association with Learn Launch
In an effort to build environmental awareness and develop students' ability to learn outside of the four walls of the classroom, our grade level is working with Drumlin Farm, an Audubon association, to integrate grade-level content related to habitats, Native American culture, animal adaptation, STEAM, close reading, informational text, and writing into a rich three to four day field study experience. The children will visit the farm on three or four separate days. During that time they will engage in hands-on exploration, creation, and participation activities that grow their understanding in the content areas above.  There are many reasons why I'm looking forward to this experience, an activity that will provide children with the real-life experience of what it's like to learn in the field as a biologist, anthropologist, writer, farmer, researcher, and environmentalist. 

As we planned, we were cognizant of the grade-level expectations as well as the need to inspire and engage all of our students with multiple learning venues. We're looking forward to a dynamic year ahead.