Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Developing STEAM efforts at the elementary school

On a plane ride to California in 2013 for The Intersection Event, I imagined the ideal STEAM classroom and created the video at the top of the page. Later I had the chance to share this idea with an amazing group of leaders at a Google Headquarters. Their reactions to my idea noted that the best ideas begin with passion, personal investment, and testing it out. So upon returning to school, I began a STEAM journey. Initially inspired by multiple ideas and research shared mostly by my wonderful online PLN, I worked with grade-level colleagues to forward small projects and make changes to the classroom environment. Bright colleagues in the system were already engaging in a number of STEAM-related activities with their students. I took note of their work and discussed their thinking and efforts with them. The Global Cardboard Challenge was also a significant move as colleagues and I embraced the STEAM mindset and activity more.

After the Intersection Event, with urgency, I met with district leadership to discuss our systemwide need to embrace STEAM in order to teach students well. Not long after, district leadership began a systematic STEAM effort by identifying three STEAM activities for each elementary grade level. Via a number of collegial and administrative efforts, STEAM cabinets were purchased, needed supplies obtained, design/engineering posters distributed, professional learning events planned and carried including expert visitors and in-house presenters/presentations, a new science program was identified, grants for related STEAM furniture and supplies written and obtained, and lots of creative STEAM efforts were put into place throughout the elementary schools. The greatest motivator for these events, I believe, has been the parent/student enthusiasm, support, and engagement. Students LOVE STEAM!

So at this juncture, where are we headed? Our team is working to better develop and synthesize our STEAM efforts with multiple standards throughout the curriculum including our environmental/life science standards and reading/writing standards. We've also combined our three steam activities with a STEAM Survival theme. Books such as Timeless Learning and state-of-the-art curriculum programs such as Mystery Science provide wonderful rationale, research, and resources to lend examples and strengthen our efforts. Next year we hope to build the projects to be more interdisciplinary and to heighten students' use of the design/engineering standards and steps in these activities.

Our collective STEAM teaching/learning has developed significantly over the past six years thanks to the efforts of many, many educators, students, family members, and administrators. I am wondering where our next steps will bring us as I consider this worthy study. I welcome your ideas.