A buzzword in the world of education, STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, art, and math. STEAM initiatives range from entire curricula to a single project, and integrate the components in various ways to engage students in a cross-curricular learning experience.
At Shipley, many courses encompass STEAM projects and principles. Over the past few years, Shipley has explored ways to bring those existing projects under one umbrella, growing its STEAM program across all divisions with a particular emphasis on developing the Upper School curriculum.
“It’s a growing program,” says Chris Fornaro, Upper School engineering teacher. “It’s evolving, project-based, and fun.”
Fornaro joined the educational technology faculty last fall to teach the newly-created Engineering course. Aside from teaching, Fornaro has taken an interest in collaborating with other faculty members to brainstorm ways to incorporate STEAM ideas within their respective classrooms.
“Because STEAM is not a class, STEAM projects are happening in many different places,” explains Wendy Eiteljorg ’86, Director of Educational Technology. “We have enough pieces and interest that it’s appropriate to have someone start to wrangle all of that information into something that makes more sense.”
Space to Create
Next year, the Upper School will see significant improvements to the classroom space provided for innovating and creating.
“We’re moving into a new space next year, so that we can have dedicated workshop and instructional space to allow for more classes,” says Fornaro. “Our current space accommodates approximately 8 to 10 students, while the new Maker Lab will hold about 20 to 24.”
“The Maker Lab is a big step in terms of having the ability to build and have work happening on a bigger scale,” explains Eiteljorg. “The Space will have more room for our 3D printers and laser engravers. Students will have a space for circuitry and wiring, programming, and robotics. It’s really an innovation and maker space with ample capacity and supplies to expand on some of the bigger, messier projects.”
Middle School Innovations
Over the past two years, Shipley has developed a more robust Middle School technology class for each grade level, adding programming and hands-on innovation.
“We tweaked the curriculum, so there were more projects that came outside of the computers,” says Bethany Silva, Middle School technology teacher. “Before we had focused on coding and programming, which is really important and we don’t want to lose that, but we also started doing projects where students are stuffing monsters and sewing in lights that glow.”
“Wendy [Eiteljorg ’86] and I started a mini course this year called ‘Mini-Maker’,” explains Bethany. “The course is designed to test out things that we could do to do as part of the STEAM curriculum. It’s a nice way to see what we might encounter when students are working on this.”
Well-developed STEAM initiatives speak to Shipley’s mission of developing a love of learning in each student and preparing students for life beyond school.
“STEAM challenges students to come up with their own questions, answer those questions, and refine the results in a cyclical process,” says Fornaro. “Students learn to think creatively, execute, and self reflect. It’s teaching to the whole student, teaching them how to be thinkers.”
“When people think of STEM, without the A, they tend to think about a really specific type of learner,” explains Silva. “And then we [as faculty] tend to value only one type of learner. Shipley is really good at valuing lots of different types of learners. By adding that A in, it gives us a way to do that.”
STEAM in Lower School
A new initiative in Shipley’s Lower School science class for students in grades three through five is “Innovation Day.” During each "I Day" in the School’s seven-day rotation schedule, the students construct a project from their own ideas. Projects range from building and testing catapults to using Little Bits circuitry sets to light up a cardboard dollhouse.
“There is a lot of building, there are a lot of mistakes, frustration, and a lot of setbacks, but it’s real,” says Dan Del Duca, Lower School science teacher. “That’s so important in life, a lot of things don’t work out as you planned.”
“Rather than the teacher saying, this is what you should be curious about, you start with the student and ask, "What are you curious about?'” says Del Duca. “It has so much potential. That’s the essence of education at Shipley. It’s that grounded, deeply-rooted, lifelong learning.”
“STEAM in Lower School is not simply adding a component,” explains Tim Lightman, Head of Lower School. “It’s about creating an approach to problem solving by incorporating different ways of thinking.”
“Coming at topics from multiple fields and multiple perspectives mimics what people experience when they move on into the professional world,” says Lightman. “Often times you have to work with people in other disciplines with different perspectives to engage in problem solving. I think it also allows for divergent thinking and making connections.”
With the instant success and excitement over Innovation Day, Dan Del Duca plans to increase the materials and resources available to his students next year. He also hopes to collaborate with classroom teachers to create larger STEAM projects.
“I would like to see more of the integrating of curriculum across disciplines and collaboration of teachers specifically around a STEAM perspective,” says Lightman.
Interest from students, faculty, and administration in these initiatives is heating up quickly. For the 2015-2016 academic year, Shipley will continue to dedicate time and resources to growing its STEAM program across divisions. The smell of a soldering iron, sound of a hammer, and drawings of structural designs will only mean one thing – it’s getting steamy in The Shipley School.