The energy was electrifying last Thursday night when many K-8th grade families came together to learn more about S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Mathematics) instruction at St. Anne's, and then try their hand at an engineering challenge!
It was standing room only in the Dining Room when "STEAM team" members Kerry Wilson (Lower School STEM), Bethany Otwell (5th-6th grade STEM), Michelle Wolinski (7th-8th grade STEM), Amy Sherman (Art, Technology, and Middle School Math), and Jacque Hanlon (Technology Coordinator) introduced themselves and explained STEAM - what it is and why this is a beneficial approach to learning.
Mrs. Wilson began by providing an update on Project Lead the Way (PLTW), a project-based-learning curriculum which is now being followed in Kindergarten through Grade 3 and will be extended to Grades 4 and 5 next year. PLTW is a student-centered curriculum that puts learning in the hands of the students, while the teacher facilitates student thinking and doing. Students are collaborating and communicating while learning content through activities and projects with a culminating real-world problem they have to solve that applies all of the knowledge they have learned. The base of the STEM curriculum is aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) which supports learning through a spiraling curriculum that builds from year to year as students go back and keep revisiting, remembering, applying, and learning on deeper levels.
Mrs. Wolinski and Ms. Otwell described the evolution of STEAM nationally. Some recent STEAM additions at St. Anne's include a more robust computer science robotics program and greater incorporation of outdoor education. They highlighted that many challenges of the modern day will need to be solved by the engineers of tomorrow and that early exposure to engineering can encourage students to consider and plan for a career in this field. No matter what direction students may choose, they will be well served by the skills developed through the project-based learning STEAM uses: collaboration, communication, creativity, critical thinking, confidence, perseverance, and ingenuity.
Mrs. Wilson then presented our families with the challenge: to design, build, and test a ball launcher and target using the materials provided. Families quickly got to work! The diversity of responses to the challenge was surpassed only by the enthusiasm displayed as devices were built, tested, redesigned, and retested.
Guests also took time to talk to the fourth graders and examine the robotic projects they had designed, built, and programmed, on display in the front hall.
Students had this to say about the evening:
It was fun, I liked that it was hard. It was fun that we got limited materials and we had to test how far it went. I liked seeing other peoples' designs. - Rowan Parikh
I thought it was cool because you got to design your own launcher. I made it two times and I figured out it doesn't depend on the length; it depends on the angle to get it to go in the bowl. - Cierra Smith
It was really fun because you got to create and build from such simple objects like rulers and pencils and cups. - Aubrey Schaeffer
I liked that it was a challenge and it is bonding time with your family. It was good, I really liked it. - Jake Hanlon
I liked watching people do the catapult and launching our catapult. - Marcus Edwards
Our Design, Build, and Play evening was based on the Fluor Challenge 2018, an international competition. Students may submit their entries between February 18th and March 16th to be judged against other submissions from around the world for a chance to win!
We are most grateful to our STEAM teachers for designing and presenting such a wonderful evening, to our parents and families for joining us for the evening, and to SAPA and our student volunteers for providing us with refreshments. Thank you all!