I believe STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) education is critical to providing children with opportunities relevant to today's world. Over the past few months the Shaw has been working on finding ways to better prepare Shaw students to excel in science. We have been working to create a school-wide STEAM culture that contains real world problem solving and a connection to careers. Every student is working to develop the following STEAM skills: problem solving, teamwork, technology, and communication. Check out some of the things the Shaw library is doing to create a STEAM culture at the Shaw!
Volunteers from Vertex came and read stories to students. These stories celebrated the positive contributions that African American scientists, engineers, computer programmers, and many more make to society.
New England Aquarium Field Trip
K1 and 1st grade students took a field trip to the New England Aquarium. This was a chance for students to step outside their classroom and apply their learning to real world situations. Our K1 students had been learning about water. On the field trip they were able to see living things and their environment. Our first graders had been studying different species of birds, their habitats, and adaptations. On the field trip students looked specifically at the penguins and made scientific observations. They learned about penguin behavior, adaptations, their habitat, and conservation. Students got to look at penguin feathers up close and meet with the Aquarium guides to ask questions. It gave students a chance to see birds up close and personal!
Dream STEAM! Event
This event had the entire Shaw school working together to promote a culture of STEAM learning. Families were able to visit classrooms and see the fun STEAM learning already happening in classes. Activities ranged from making slime, programming robots, writing in nature journals, making edible amber fossils, and studying the effect of oil spills on bird feathers. In the end, families walked away feeling comfortable encouraging STEAM at home. The event really emphasized how many of our students are already succeeding at using technology, posing questions, and planning out investigations (all parts of the Next Generation Science Standards).
Engineering & Empathy PD
Ms. Donlan, Mr. Connor and I visited the Boston Children’s Museum to participate in an “Engineering & Empathy” professional development opportunity. We were able to think about hands-on ways to help our students become empathic innovators and problem solvers. Through classroom engineering activities, our students can begin to think carefully about the needs of others.
Creating lifelong learners doesn’t just happen, but takes everyone in the community to reach that objective. Prioritizing STEAM is teaching all Shaw students to take risks, make mistakes, and explore new ideas.
I wanted to reflect on one of the terrific partnerships the Shaw engaged in at the end of 2019. After studying existentialism in picture books, seniors from Boston Latin School visited with our K1, K2, and 1st grade classes. The 12th graders shared and read aloud the stories they had been studying. This was a chance for students from varying age ranges to interpret the books and enjoy stories togethers. Many of the Shaw students remembered this event from last year and were excited to get to know new Boston Latin School students. They loved showing off their classrooms and talking about what they were learning. Everyone got to share their thoughts about the books while completing book reviews. It was truly a meaningful experience for everyone involved.
Cheers to a new year and more engaging, collaborative learning experiences like this one!
First and second graders had their first Vertex visit of the school year, and it was a resounding success! Volunteers started off by sharing information with students about cystic fibrosis, one of the diseases the company works on. Students then participated in an observation and analysis of simulated mucus samples. Students looked at healthy mucus samples and compared them to mucus samples from people with cystic fibrosis. Students loved describing what the different mucus types looked, felt, and even smelled like!
Students also got a chance to experiment with 3D pens. With the 3D printing pen students were able to draw anything they wanted and watch their creations become 3D models in a matter of minutes.
Thank you Vertex for helping bringing science to life and giving students a chance to use some incredible tech tools!
To celebrate computer science, Shaw students participated in a global event called Hour of Code. Students used apps like Kodable and The Foos to practice programming and sequencing. They also used Bee-Bots (a type of robot) to learn directional language and program the robots to follow set paths.
The people who tell computers what to do are called programmers. Students acted like programmers, using a special language known as code to move a “robot” forward, spin, and jump. Using this basic programming language, students used code to tell computers and robots EXACTLY what to do. They had to tell the computer and robots what to do in the right order or else it would not work correctly.
After all their hard work, students discussed that computers and other tech tools can’t do anything without people telling them what to do. We learned that people are a lot smarter than computers! Check out the following resources to keep working on computer science and programming skills at home!
This past Friday we had our first author visit of the school year. Author, illustrator, and activist Innosanto Nagara came to speak to 2nd and 3rd grade students. Innosanto has written and illustrated five books for children. Prior to his visit, the students and I read his bestselling alphabet book A Is For Activist. We also looked at Counting on Community, The Wedding Portrait, and My Night In The Planetarium, which is on the Boston Public Library’s recommended reading list.
Innosanto spoke to students about activism, the importance of community, and why people sometimes break the rules to make things better. While listening to Innosanto speak, students made connections with the work they are already doing in their classrooms. Students have been acting out plays about freedom fighters and learning about people that fought for change. The students had some wonderful questions for Innosanto about what it takes to make a book, where Innosanto gets his ideas from, what inspires him to write, and what it’s like being an author and an illustrator at the same time.
Our friends at Wondermore helped make this visit possible. They organized bringing Innosanto to the Shaw and even helped bring the incredible gift of books so that all of the students got their very own book to keep!
Last year I started talking to fitness guru and courage architect Ashley Mitchell (read more about her here) in regards to working with some of our students to teach them fitness and empowerment. She is currently teaching a movement class that she developed for juniors and seniors at Roxbury Prep, and also launched her own website. Ashley is now seeing all of our 3rd grade students once a week with lessons focused on movement, journaling, and community building. Students are being exposed to high intensity interval training and yoga poses. They are challenging themselves and making connections between their bodies and minds.
Ashley’s visits have been a resounding success! Students are engaged and participating, and teachers have told me that they noticed a difference in students’ demeanor and focus throughout the day. In just a short amount of time Shaw 3rd graders are already holding themselves accountable for their own personal wellness. Ashley is teaching our students that they have power. She is showing them that struggles are to be expected, but it’s how we deal with these struggles that makes us better people. She is showing our students to value their courage and strength. Ashley is not only a fitness professional, but a truly incredible role model. She is striving to have our students “identify and activate their inner strength through a holistic approach that combines movement with journaling and dialogue to tease out their individuality and innate characteristics of courage.” Thank you Ashley!
This school year started with not only Shaw students eager to learn, but Shaw teachers too! Alongside my colleagues, I participated in two professional development opportunities in October. Professional development is about becoming the best-equipped teacher I can be as well as sharing what I know with other educators.
Ms. Peralta and I attended the Women in Stem Conference in Orlando, Florida hosted by the National Educator Program. The conference focused on how to promote student achievement, mastery of STEM content, and getting under-represented populations interested in STEM.
Brenda Skoczelas, a physics professor at Lake Sumter State College in Florida, talked about closing the gender gap in STEM and what educators can do to help. She talked about exposing students at an earlier age to STEM, making students aware of the different STEM careers available to them, and making sure students have female STEM mentors.
During the conference Ms. Peralta and I participated in various workshops and STEM building challenges. We learned about coding, the value of play, and even participated in a forensic science experiment about the Wicked Witch of the West! Attending this conference helped me remember that it’s our responsibility as teachers to give girls a positive early experience. We need to let girls explore and have fun, and the library is the perfect place to do that!
Alongside Holmes Innovation School librarian Paula Pickett, I was a presenter for STEAM Up Your Library! at the MassCUE Fall Conference. Paula and I believe that structured makerspace activities combined with well-selected literature increase awareness of STEAM careers in elementary students. We demonstrated how to combine literacy and STEAM-based activities in the library to expose students to career opportunities within STEAM fields. Some of our project examples included strawberry science, school yard gardening, making fossils, 3D technology, coding, and making clothes for dolls.
There is always more to learn. Life-long learning keeps me motivated, and I’m hoping that my students will be inspired to do the same.
Thanks to our amazing friends at Wondermore, last Friday our second and third graders had a special visit from author Paul Reynolds. Paul is the author of Going Places and the Sydney & Simon series. He is also the co-founder of FableVision Studios, a media company he started alongside his twin brother, Peter.
Paul started by talking to students about what it means to “create bravely.” He talked about his childhood and how he has been creating alongside his brother his entire life. When Paul was in the second grade he began writing stories while his brother Peter illustrated them. Students started thinking about creating with a best friend and the importance of kindness.
Paul read The Dot and shared the inspiration for the story. He told students that you don’t have to be good at everything, but it’s worth trying different things to see what you like. He talked about not giving up and doing what you love. He also spoke to students about the work FableVision does creating storytelling technology. Students asked Paul questions, including:
“What inspired you to be an author?”
“When you and your brother work together do you argue sometimes?”
“Did anything in your childhood inspire you?”
“What motivates you to keep writing?”
Paul was truly inspirational. You know it was a fabulous author visit when students were crowding around Paul asking to share their writing and coding projects with him. Teachers stopped by the library to tell me how meaningful the visit was and many students stopped by the library to borrow his books. Students learn best when they’re having fun, and Paul’s visit was definitely fun!
We know that field trips are memorable, influential experiences in a child’s life. With the help of our amazing Vertex volunteers we were able to leave the classroom and take our learning on the road. Volunteers met some of our first and second graders at the Boston Children’s Museum for a fabulous field trip.
First graders participated in a Laser Cutting workshop. Students started off by using pencil and paper to draw their own designs, and then tried copying their designs on an iPad. They were able to use laser cutting technology to engrave their original artwork on wood and take it home!
Second graders participated in “Explore-A-Saurus”, a program complementing the Museum’s dinosaur exhibit. Students examined real fossil evidence and learned what it takes to be a paleontologist. They worked together to determine what is considered a fossil and what is not. They also created their own fossil trackways!
We had a wonderful time exploring the Museum and exploring exhibits focused on science. We were all able to benefit from the resources and first-hand experiences the Children’s Museum had to offer. Place-based learning like this allowed for curiosity, a chance to answer real-world problems and essential questions, an opportunity to revise and reflect, and for collaboration and comprehension. Thank you Vertex!
We were incredibly lucky to have award winning author and illustrator Jef Czekaj visit the Shaw. Jef visited a few years ago and it was wonderful to have him come back for another fun and informative author visit. Jef’s humorous and musical writing has found many fans in the Shaw library. His book Hip & Hop, Don’t Stop! is always one of the first books to be grabbed off the shelves.
Our K1, K2, and 1st grade students spent the past few weeks preparing for the author visit by reading some of Jef’s books including Hip & Hop, Don’t Stop!, Cat Secrets, Yes, Yes, Yaul! and Oink-A-Doodle-Moo. All of that reading prompted some wonderful discussion. Students also came up with questions to ask Jef during his visit. Questions ranged from what inspires Jef to asking about how he comes up with his raps. During the visit Jef talked about how even as a kid he always enjoyed drawing and writing stories. He went into detail about his writing process and how he practices drawing on a daily basis. Jef read one of his stories aloud to the students; he played music and rapped Yes, Yes, Yaul! Teachers and students alike were out of their chairs dancing and shouting along.
Jef also showed students how he goes about illustrating characters. Students shouted out character traits and Jef combined their ideas to make a brand new character on the fly. It was fast-paced, interactive, and fun. At the end of the visit every single student was given their very own copy of Hip & Hop in the House!
Everyone is still sharing accolades with me after the visit. Jef definitely made a lasting impression on the students. It was a fabulous time and we are so grateful to Wondermore for making the visit possible.
Ms. VanClief is the Library Media Specialist at the P.A. Shaw. She loves hockey, going to the beach, and reading (obviously!)