Thursday, July 25, 2013

An Article In Isanti County News, July 23, 2013

School for All Seasons introduces STEAM for learning

It’s in school that children dream about being a part of something revolutionary like discovering an invention or becoming a renowned artist.
School for All Seasons is introducing STEAM, a new concept for educating students that aims to equip students with practical problem-solving skills and that is fostered through integrated learning. STEAM is designed to provide children with learning that is founded on passion, fun and engagement and is focused on building more well-rounded students.
“There are eight different kinds of ‘smarts,’ and when you incorporate STEAM into your classroom, you are allowing students to flourish in whatever way they are created to flourish based on their passions and (how they are) more smart in one way than another … and I think self-esteem building in that regard,” first-grade teacher Kimberly Horst said.
STEAM, which stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and math, will be introduced when the school starts July 31. The model will also be incorporated at Isanti Middle School when the regular school session begins Sept. 3.
The inspiration for School for All Seasons to switch to the STEAM model came from a desire to cultivate the commitment and passion that education needs to inspire students. It is not about replacing teaching, but about making it fun and incorporating it differently to cater to the 21st century learner by building technology around content.
“I think what the STEAM does is you take the disciplinaries we have and you integrate them so flawlessly that a student might not know they are studying science in a reading class,” Horst said.
Placing an emphasis on community is also something STEAM does.
Using community features and resources like city parks, the Rum River and other accessible features like the school’s garden for out-of-class learning will help to instill students with an appreciation for the community around them and also help to provide hands-on learning experiences within the natural environment.
The model also encourages new ideas for learning from community members and is open to volunteers who can help to expose children to new learning experiences.
“When you can have the buy-in that these children are everybody’s children, then that’s when the change will come and that’s when you will see true growth and responsibility for one another,” Horst said.
One way in which the staff will be using STEAM is to educate students on what it means to be a good digital citizen.
STEAM enables teachers to address important questions of today’s technology world, like what it means to leave a digital footprint and what proper, responsible technology use looks like.
An immediate dialogue for issues like plagiarism and cyberbullying will enable teachers to help students make an application to their education, personal lives and careers.
Another opportunity STEAM will provide to School for All Seasons students is 90 minutes of exploratories for three days at the end of each trimester.
Exploratories are referred to as passion learning opportunities, where students pick a passion of their teachers to explore in an attempt to discover their own interests and passions.
Students in kindergarten through fifth grade will come together during the exploratories. The opportunities will provide out-of-textbook learning in areas like Spanish culture or the history and skill of quilting, for example.
“I think most teachers dream about actually having a classroom where they can do that and that we are not so committed and bound to the testing, but rather bring that testing in to teach the kids the problem-solving skills to take that test, and you can do it in many different ways and it doesn’t have to be out of a textbook,” School for All Seasons first-grade teacher Irene Gotfredson said.
“We have always had a lot of parent involvement, and now we are pulling in our communities,” Horst added.
The school leadership and staff are looking forward to STEAM’s foundation year and have big dreams for the future of the education concept.
“Taking a leap of faith and being a risk-taker is about being a change-maker,” Horst added.