Was happy to welcome visitors from Kenton County, KY yesterday at STEAM (we are getting lots of visitors these days). They are also in the process of transitioning to STEAM mindsets, so we had good conversations.
I am frequently so engrossed in the high school context, and the Lexington context in particular, that I do not take time to think about what elements of what we have learned at STEAM translate across any/all schools particularly the middle and elementary. So, just off the top of my head, here are some baseline STEAM thoughts no matter the context:
- Project Based Learning … we are not awesome at it now, but we are trying and getting better each year. The best place to learn more about PBL in a fun fashion is from this teacher at HTH: http://dp.hightechhigh.org/~jrobin/
- The Digital Side. At the middle school there would definitely be some learning management system in place for me and then backward mapping from there down into elementary. I would be doing a lot of digital work/production with my elementary students so that they deeply understood those devices are really about doing things rather than consuming things.
- Related to digital for us is the custom creating of lessons. This part is hard and sucks when you are seeing a hundred+ kids a day, but kids respond when teachers put their own touch on what/how to teach. When teachers do it that way (v. something from a textbook) there is a deeper understanding even on the part of the teacher of “why” something is happening and what new knowledge and skills should result … and that translates for the kids. This is of course, not new to STEAM, but throwing out the textbooks sort of puts teachers in this position and then they adapt (although that initial month or two is a doozy). Over-planning is key. I’ve had great success personally with structuring my lessons minute by minute and putting a time allocation on each thing I intend to do with kids so that both they and I know what is happening throughout all our time together (of course, some of those minutes are allocated to open discussion/study).
- Advisory … giving each kid a home in the school … at the elementary schools they already do this somewhat well. Each kid generally feels loved and feels like they have a home in the building and a place for them. As we transition the kids into middle, that sort of slowly phases out. Instead of phasing that out, how do we think about transitioning so the feeling of being loved and having a home at school stays with the kids through the middle years into high? It would just be a priority of mine. Middle school is where a lot of that goes wrong and then high schools are put in a difficult position because on day 1 a substantial percentage of the humans in the building do not want to be there.
- Get kids and adults out of the building as much as possible.
- Arts = culture. That probably should not come as a surprise given that when we study art we usually talk about culture … but we sort of had to learn that the hard way. As more art entered our building, culture improved. When we expanded to even more art … culture improved more. Funny, that. Now I sort of look back and think … duh. We had a culture problem in Year 1 partly because we had an Art deficiency.
- Really think about and know what you mean by STEAM … so, for me/us, here is how I personally think about STEAM. I’ve not been as public as I should have been about this yet, but it does impact what we do. Math is a language, Science is a process, engineering is the doing, and technology is the result … with Art throughout making things beautiful and interesting where they otherwise could be bland and boring. These are not separate things, they are all part of one way of interacting with the world that is particularly useful for making, creating, doing, understanding, etc. Particularly for the elementary and middle this sort of structured curiosity then creativity process is what I’d think about making the baseline of activities.