Thursday, July 25, 2013

An Article In My Town Paper The County Star July 23rd, 2013

School For All Seasons starts new initiative

When 250 students head back to School For All Seasons on July 31 after a six-week break, there will be more than just excited teachers to greet them.
The school, part of the Cambridge-Isanti school district, is starting a new learning initiative called S.T.E.A.M. – science, technology, environment, arts and mathematics.
Similar initiatives use the “E” in the name for engineering, but SFAS felt with the Rum River and school garden, that environment would be a great asset to the program.
But that’s not the only difference.
“One difference with the S.T.E.A.M. model is the ‘A’ – the arts,” said Kimberly Hurd Horst, teacher at SFAS. “And we do not want to forget our arts. There are kids who deeply, deeply learn through arts.”
S.T.E.A.M. will create and evolve educational programs to include a multidisciplinary oriented classroom to foster imagination. 
“What’s really exciting about the STEAM model is that it’s all-encompassing,” said Horst. 
“What steam does is it has the possibility for such enrichment. It’s blended together smoothly and seamlessly with so many other things – learning about science in reading class, learning about ancient math history in math class.”
The initiative will help with creating 21st century learners with an emphasis on technology. Teachers, who all have an iPad, two computers in their room and a computer lab for each grade level, will have more availability for technology to be used.
Teachers will be able to combine teaching with how students are already learning and ask, “what technology will be used best to add to the lesson plan.”
S.T.E.A.M also helps students find a way to approach a topic like science in a way that they learn best.
Teachers can take those “scary” subjects and really help children learn about them in a unique way that helps them succeed. And that’s right in line with a philosophy at SFAS – nurturing the seeds of learning while recognizing that individual child and their needs.
“We know the kids come in with a desire to be excellent,” Horst said, “but we’re not good at everything, so let’s work on it together. plant the seeds and keep watering those seeds of learning.”
Part of the initiative includes exploratory passion time. The goal is for students to eventually lead their own passion time, but for now, the teachers will bring some of their passions to the students. 
“When students realize adults have passions about something,” Horst said, “it allows them to say to themselves, ‘what am I passionate about?’”
Horst will teach children about one of her favorite things  – the Latin culture. Children will be introduced to Latin food, dancing and history. 
Some other teachers will share the love of quilting. Students will learn about the history of quilting during the Civil War and work on creating their own quilt. 
Other teachers will tackle subjects heavier in mathematics and technology. 
The exploratory program will be 9 days each school year split into 3 consecutive days per trimester. During that time, students will meet for half-an-hour a day learning about the various passions. 
There will not be a set curriculum for the passion topics.
“There’s a lot of safety behind a curriculum,” Horst said. “(The passion topics go) where your heart is going to take you in that moment – and that’s going to incorporate all these different S.T.E.A.M. ideas.”
Teachers at SFAS have high expectations for their students and for the new program, but don’t want to jump in too fast. 
“This whole S.T.E.A.M. program is a baby step,” Horst explained. “When you are new at something, it’s good to have big dreams and big visions as to where you are going to go, but it’s also okay to take baby steps into that so you can make good choices and learn along the way.”
Just like S.T.E.A.M. allows for students to think critically and do a lot of analyzing and applying, they hope to do the same with the program.
Teachers and administration want to build a strong foundation and then ask, “What can we add on top of that?”