Thursday, August 11, 2016

Charging full STEAM ahead in lower school!

Our lower school has been working hard for the last two years to create integrated thematic units that create cross-curricular connected opportunities for learning. Research has long shown the value of connection and CCS has worked hard to embrace thematic units more deeply for next year. Because nothing ever happens by chance, God has also allowed the lower school the opportunity to put "hands and feet" to these units through a generous grant from The Conversant Group. For those of us working, plotting, and planning towards more STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) endeavors for our lower school students, this grant fell into our laps much like manna from heaven! It has allowed our school to fast forward our desires and goals for more STEAM experiences in the elementary school.

What does this look like? As the technology coordinator in the lower school, it has been my desire to create opportunities for more computer science enriched endeavors for our students at every grade level. With this grant, we were able to hire our STEAM coordinator. She and I will work together with our curriculum coordinator and teachers to create project-based learning (PBL) opportunities that directly build on the thematic units our teams of educators have been working on for the last two years. Project-based learning will become the "hands and feet" of these great units! The beauty of PBL is that it creates authentic learning opportunities for our students and gives them some voice and choice in the direction of their learning. Because PBL is often a team approach, it will teach the important 21st century skill of collaboration to our students. Our students will have multiple opportunities throughout the year to work with our team as we co-teach with the classroom teachers to provide these rich project-based learning experiences that may include things such as coding, 3d printing, videography, engineering, and problem solving opportunities. But that's not all...

The 2016-2017 school year also brings the concept of Friday elective days for our fourth and fifth grade students. These students will be able to choose from a variety of learning opportunities including anything from knitting to mountain biking, but due to our grant every quarter at least one offering will be an experience to enhance STEAM learning. Quarter long opportunities in coding, circuitry, 3d printing, and robotics are just a few of the things on the drawing board for our students. Speaking of robotics, Mrs. Yandell will also be heading up two after school opportunities that will include the first ever lower school robotics team and a circuitry after school learning experience as well! Last year our middle school had its first ever robotics team that received many accolades, we want to do the same in the lower school and build an even stronger foundation for robotics at CCS!

According to The New York Times, 65% of elementary students' jobs aren't a reality yet and many of them will be STEAM based. By exposing our students to a variety of STEAM activities we feel we are preparing them to think positively and expectantly towards the future before them. It's exciting times in the lower school as we are charging full STEAM ahead with our students!

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