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Saturday, January 23, 2016

More STEAM Think: Tips for Future Projects

Colorful student hand-crafted marble maze screw.
I like to analyze projects deeply in order to grow the effort.

The big positive aspects of today's project included the following:
  • Great preparation
  • Teams of varied strengths, interests, and talents
  • Sufficient quantity and variety of materials including many recyclables
  • Team work spaces
  • A good amount of time
  • Student enthusiasm and teamwork
  • The chance for students to engage in a real-world, hands-on project that required stamina and perseverance
  • Wonderful exchange of language and ideas as students worked together
  • The chance to share their project work and creativity with classmates
  • Upcoming reflection and review using video and reflection sheets
  • Grade-level collaboration, enthusiasm, and share. 
The positives, in some cases, were also challenges. Areas where we can work as a class to do a better job with STEAM theme days include the following:
  • Greater preparation for what it takes to be a positive team member. Knowing what it takes to collaborate well.
  • Better materials organization and greater understanding and effort by all to care for materials, clean up, and return materials to where they belong. We need to work on this as a team now that the STEAM Center is taking better shape (This has been an ongoing challenge for me as a teacher since I have so, so, so many varied materials.)
  • While we had a lot of time, for some it wasn't enough since their vision and plans required more time to reach the project result they were hoping for. On the other hand, the amount of time we had was challenging for some too since it was a long time for those students to stay focused. Also in order to film the students, we worked right up to the last second leaving little time for share or clean-up.
  • More support would have been helpful for me. Since I'm the only full time teacher in the classroom I was very busy helping one group after another. Next time I think I'll seek some parent volunteers as the extra hands and coaching would help students a lot. I did have some assistant teachers drop in to help though and that was very helpful.
  • Space remains a factor since we quickly morphed our somewhat traditional classroom into a STEAM lab which meant moving lots of desks and other furniture to make space for the large-scale projects and teamwork. It would be great to have more space, but a shared STEAM room wouldn't allow us the time needed so think it's best to continue to think about ways to organize the classroom so that there's space for this kind of learning on a regular basis. 
As I continue to develop greater ability to facilitate STEAM learning activities, I continue to develop my ability to collect, organize, manage the supplies, support student invention, encourage the needed collaboration and problem solving, and match the project steps well to the time and space available. New teaching requires practice, but we can't let the fact that we need to learn and develop our skill stop us from trying new endeavor that will support optimal learning/teaching for our students.