At Laurence, we have one elective class during trimester three for almost all students in grades 3-5 — The STEAM Elective!
Last year, we designed a solar car challenge, where students learned how to design a car from two fantastic designers, Michael DiTullo and Jonathan Ward of ICON 4×4 Cars. Then, over the course of 7 classes, students interviewed another student and designed a solar car based on the brainstorming that took place with their partner. The final class culminated in students showing off their cars and exchanging what they built with their partner.
I was lucky enough to be asked to speak on a panel at this year’s ATLIS conference focusing on Makerspaces with the amazing Dr. Ashley Cross, Director of Technology, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Day School, Tatyana Griffin Director of Educational Technology & xLab (MakerSpace) Coordinator, The College Preparatory School, Leigh Northrup Dean of Innovation and Technology, Cannon School, moderated by Sarah Rolle, Director of Technology, Elizabeth Morrow School.
The goal was to discuss how our makerspaces have evolved, how we integrate them programmatically, tips and trips, as well as philosophical questions around project-based learning. Considering we had 45 minutes, we covered a lot of ground!
Check out these cool resources that Sarah compiled from the group as a take-away from our talk.
An integrator’s job is to meet with teachers to discuss their curriculum goals and brainstorm ways to make projects more fun and interactive through the use of technology/making.
In Grade 2, students learn about San Francisco landmarks, so we thought it would be interesting for students to build the Golden Gate Bridge in teams. We wanted the project to integrate both engineering and technology. Each group constructed their bridges using materials, such as cardboard, paper, tape. Once the main building phase was completed we challenged each group to integrate basic circuits into their sculpture using conductive thread, tape, LEDs, and coin batteries.
Group work also addresses other classroom goals, such as developing listening skills, learning how to work well with others, practicing advocating for yourself and your ideas while staying open-minded to what others have to contribute, and being flexible.
Following Grade 4’s Stem the Gender Gap field trip to NASA, we launched the Wind Tube project. In groups of 6, students built a wind tube using wood, plastic, tape, and a fan. Next challenge = build and test flying structures!
I teamed up with the Middle School Art Teacher for a unit that explored patterns and shape with 6th Grade students. We used Illustrator to create our patterns and then we laser cut our creations using felt.
Cut settings for the Full Spectrum Laser: Speed 100%, Power 10%.
Partnered with the Lower School Counselor, we discussed typical aspects of childhood development for Kindergarteners through Grade 2. We outlined how we merged our Social Emotional Learning curriculum (Toolbox) with the Digital Citizenship curriculum (Common Sense Media), as well as how we use technology and making at Hamlin to support both curriculum goals and social/emotional development. To highlight this last piece, I surprised the parents by giving them a design directive:
Your team: the parents sitting at your table (3-4 people)
Your challenge: In teams, using the materials provided, create the biggest free-standing structure you can in 25 minutes.
View the slides:
This directive was taken directly from my art therapy training. It’s designed to highlight group dynamics, i.e.: the way the group works together, while including engineering/making. The results were great! Because the parents groups were random (who they happened to be sitting next to during the presentation), many team members had not met each other prior to the challenge. Parents definitely had a lot of fun, and we processed the various interpersonal issues that emerged. By the end of the presentation parents experientially understood how our technology and social emotional programs are intentionally developed and the power of creating as a group.