Summer STEAM: Every Student (and Teacher) Succeeds!
Teachers loved teaching it. Students loved learning it. Parents posted positive comments about it on Facebook! The verdict is in: El Monte City School District’s new summer school STEAM curriculum is a resounding success!
Evidence of the impact of this innovative way of teaching summer school was witnessed by classroom visits from the district and communicated through a survey teachers completed at the end of the session.
“I saw students jumping in to help out their fellow classmates with the process when it seemed to be going wrong. They were all so involved! I loved it!” commented Claudia Molina, whose tasks included helping her first and second grade students perfect a process to make play dough.
“This was an incredibly engaging program for the children. They were anxious to get through reading the story to get to the experiments,” remarked Patricia Rayo of her third and fourth graders.
Of her work with sixth and seventh grade students, teacher Erin Brown said, “The students enjoyed the whole process of identifying a problem and then brainstorming to come up with a solution. I enjoyed walking around the room and listening to the group discussions. They wanted their projects to succeed so they had to use their critical thinking skills. It was great to watch and the students had a blast.”
EMCSD’s Summer STEAM is organized around Engineering Is Elementary and Engineering Everywhere, two programs developed by the Boston Museum of Science. As the nation’s leading engineering curriculum, these units use the engineering design process and real-world application as the foundation for learning. EMCSD developed a summer program that incorporated science, technology, engineering, art, and math (otherwise known as STEAM) to create an exciting learning opportunity for its students.
And exciting and engaging this program clearly was! Several students commented that they were thinking of pursuing a career in engineering. Some came in early from lunch to work on their projects. Discipline issues were almost non-existent as students worked collaboratively to gain the knowledge and understanding they would need to complete the challenges.
Each class completed two engineering units along with literacy, art and math lessons that were developed to complement the content and concept knowledge necessary to make sense of the engineering tasks.
In The Best of Bugs: Designing a Hand Pollinator, first and second graders learned about the critical role of insects in the pollination process, discussed the current plight of the world’s bee population, had a visit from a real beekeeper, and worked with their groups to create hand pollinators for different types of flowers. At the same time these students experienced art lessons around Georgia O’Keefe, an artist known for her beautiful flowers.
Third and fourth grade students studied two units related to water. They engineered effective water filters and learned how to clean an oil spill. Water sustainability, especially here in Southern California, was the topic of an assembly and workshops provided by the Metropolitan Water District in conjunction with Discovery Cube. The settings for the challenges presented in the engineering units were India and the Pacific Northwest, so these students created art projects around India’s peacocks and Native American art. They also produced wave paintings after studying the Asian artist, Hokusai and the traditional technique of “Gyotaku.”
Environmental issues formed the basis for the sixth and seventh grade students’ engineering units. Don’t Run Off: Urban Landscapes and Here Comes the Sun: Insulated Homes led students to studying about climate change, urban water run-off and the effect on rivers and oceans, and designing structures that reduce energy use. The urban setting inspired study of artists like Banksy, known for his “graffiti” political and cultural messages, Diego Rivera, famous for his beautiful murals, and Marz, Jr. and his colorfully graphic cityscapes.
EMCSD’s goals for the students attending Summer STEAM were simple: 1) Build 21st century skills around collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking, 2) Develop an understanding of technology and engineering, and 3) Foster an excitement and motivation for learning. What they achieved goes far beyond these goals. The energy and excitement generated during these brief 19 days of learning and growing will last well into and beyond the coming school year.