Sunday, March 18, 2018

Full STEAM Ahead at CCS

In the spring of 2016 our school was approached by a parent that wanted more STEAM opportunities for his daughters to take place at our school. Oftentimes people think that funding comes easy for private schools but I submit that it does not for individualized curricular projects. The grants aren't available to us and that was where I was as the Technology Coordinator in our lower school. Until this parent shared not only his vision but created funding opportunities, I just dreamed about integrating coding, robotics, circuitry, etc into our curriculum- the funding just wasn't there.

The change happened with the 2016-2017 school year and we were able to create a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) curriculum into our school that supported our integrated units. We were also able to hire a full time STEAM Project Assistant that would learn the nitty gritty of coding, robotics, circuitry, and the design thinking process. This STEAM Project Assistant meets with grade level teachers and works with them to create opportunities for integrated projected based learning as well as stand alone STEAM lesson plans that support weekly learning. The beauty of the way we have done this is that this STEAM Project Assistant creates embedded professional development opportunities for our teachers as well. They are able to learn about coding hand-in-hand with their students. Our goal with our STEAM program is to give our students a variety of experiences to broaden their understanding of potential STEAM jobs for their futures. We have adopted the concept of these lesson plans to not be associated with a "grade." This is our attempt to create a culture that makes students lead with curiosity and not fear failing. Our project based learning opportunities are graded by the teachers but any weekly STEAM lessons that do not impact the PBLs are considered scaffolding for learning.

This change opened the door for our students to have a variety of new experiences and for some of our students there was an immediate "click." We were already a tech-rich lower school with rolling carts of iPads and chrome books in grades preK-4th and a 1:1 environment for our fifth graders but the STEAM program created more opportunities to use the technology beyond the 4 C's of technology integration- curation, consumption, creation, and connection in ways we had not had the ability to do before.
We are programming robots and concepts, making green screen productions and showing our elementary students how to make websites. We were taking our possibilities to a new level like never before. For some of our students, we peaked an interest...we were empowering the "brains."