This approach is bigger than just going back to the good old days of integrated studies units on such topics as "Pirates", where you painted a pirate flag in art, wrote a story about a pirate in English and floated your pirate ships in tubs of water in Science.
****** pauses to reminisce about the good old days of teaching ******
We are teaching in a post-curriculum-apocolypse, where the curriculum was torn apart and reborn into highly specialised and specific areas. Bringing those areas together is one thing. The second and even more difficult part is bringing them together in ways that have authentic connections and links to the real world. We are wanting our students to work the way real world Scientists, Engineers and Mathematicians do to develop solutions to needs they identify and in ways they control.
On behalf of teachers everywhere...
(and sorry kids....the Pirate party is cancelled...)
Its not all doom and gloom
Anyone who has played then game long enough knows, this is how education is. While change is daunting and letting go of those unit plans you spent hours on is heartbreaking, working on new units of work is always exciting and it's an opportunity to create something even better!
So, 2017 has become my year of opportunity as we move into developing our STEAM units across the Primary Campus. The teachers of each year level have worked alongside our Teaching and Learning Coordinator and myself to develop ideas for our units this year. It was a big undertaking to be sure and while I don't think we will get it 100% right the first time around, I wanted to share an example of what we are doing.
A STEM approach to learning combines Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics to fuel student centered inquiry or problem based learning. In more recent years the Arts has been added to the acronym causing much debate and differing opinions on its validity in the mix. But, lets leave this debate for another blog....
Year 6 Unit: Our first attempt with STEAM
I am really excited by the Year 6 STEAM unit that is currently underway this term and what is even better, the kids are too! Last year I sat down with the year 6 teachers and pulled together as many relevant descriptors as we could to build our unit. The difference from past approaches to integrated units was that we focused on connections to the real world, student centered learning and a problem based approach. We wanted our students to be thinking about designing solutions with real world applications.
From here, using Solar Buddies as a model of design thinking and real world application, students will design and build their own solar power products using a variety of materials, including Little Bits. The aim is for their designs to be made to address a specific need or problem they have identified. Students will need to develop their solution and suggest its potential impact. The culmination of this unit will be a Solar Energy Expo where teams will showcase their products to parents and members of the community. Other curriculum areas, such as Mathematics, English, the Arts and even Geography have been neatly tied in to support the unit.
While the unit is exciting on paper, it is a little scary as well as it relies heavily on students taking charge and leading the way. It is "teacher as facilitator" in every sense of the word and it makes me nervous for sure...but you cannot discover new lands without stumbling through the wilderness a little.
Stay tuned to see if I make it out of the wilderness alive...
Read all about my thoughts on teaching in the 21st Century, my experiences with technology in the classroom, running a Maker Space, launching STEAM and Design Thinking with students, coding, robotics and much more!
Click the button below: