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.
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!
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.
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!
The fabulous Vertex volunteers were back again to lead our students in an exciting science experiment - extracting DNA from strawberries! During the strawberry DNA experiment students were able to extract, isolate, and observe the DNA of a strawberry using household products and materials. Students started off by reading over the instructions and gathering materials for the experiment. Every student had their own scientist kit equipped with gloves and safety goggles!
Students poured an extraction mixture into a bag with strawberries. They used their hands to mash and smoosh the strawberries inside the bag so that no large pieces were remaining.
Students then poured their strawberry pulp and extraction mixture through a strainer. They isolated the DNA on the surface of their mixture and pulled out the DNA! Many students thought the DNA looked like snot or slime.
Students learned that DNA is present in all plants and animals and determines all genetic traits. We had a great time thinking like scientists and showing persistence.
The Shaw was lucky enough to be chosen as one of Vertex Pharmaceuticals partner schools for the 2018-2019 school year. Volunteers had their first visit at the Shaw last week and helped integrate technology into the classrooms. First and second graders were introduced firsthand to 3D printing technology and how it can be used to create all sorts of objects.
The pens allowed students to illustrate in 3D. Students were able to draw a variety of shapes and recognizable items, including movie characters and New England sports logos. They worked on problem solving and critical thinking exercises. Once students became comfortable using the pens, they were given the challenge of building a tower or a 3D cube. Many of the students jumped at the opportunity to take on this difficult task. It required everyone to be patient, concentrate, and persevere.
The 3D pens blended math, science, and art in a creative and user-friendly way. Everyone had so much fun with the volunteers and we can't wait to learn something new next month!
This year I really wanted to give students more opportunities to build, invent, and create in the library. I wanted them to improve their hands-on problem solving and self-confidence without even knowing it. Ultimately, I wanted students to develop a “maker mindset”. You can read more about how I think making ties in perfectly with libraries here!
At the beginning of the school year I had our third graders watch a video about Caine’s Arcade. Caine is a young boy who made his own arcade entirely out of cardboard. This served as our inspiration for our first making project in the library.
We studied the engineering design process and the steps we would need to take to make our own cardboard creations come to life. We planned, made blueprints, gathered materials, and got to work! The students did an incredible job of testing out their ideas, making adjustments, and persevering. I am so proud of the third graders and their hard work.
This past Tuesday we were able to host an incredible event at the Shaw called HERStory. HERStory was a chance to share the mission of celebrating women’s achievements and empowering our female students in particular. Teaming up with the BPS Office of External Affairs and Vertex Pharmaceuticals, we were able to work with some wonderful volunteers and bring in guest readers to every classroom.
Vertex “has grown into a leading global biotech that repeatedly innovates to bring transformative medicines to people around the world.” All of the volunteers that came for this event were women working at Vertex. The shared with students STEM-related picture books that had strong female characters.
Students were then able to ask the volunteers questions about their careers and how they reached the point where they are now. Some of the women shared photographs and talked about where they went to college. A few even shared their personal struggles throughout their own school experiences. Some of the classes are currently studying community helpers and jobs, so this was a great tie-in with what they are learning.
Women and men of color are grossly under-represented in STEM careers, so one of my personal goals is to help my students develop an interest in these fields. This event was great exposure to people and careers in STEM! It was a chance for our students to meet strong, dynamic women making a difference.
A good teacher never stops learning. I recently finished a course at Lesley University called "The Maker Mindset”. I was able to engage in hands-on activities that model learning through play, fostering opportunities for self-awareness and identity affirmation, creativity, collaboration, and problem solving. I also learned about some beneficial technology to start using in the Shaw library.
Using Scratch and Makey Makey, our K0/K1 students can participate in Reader's Theater! They can press the characters to have them speak for each role. This helps our non-verbal and shy students be included in our literacy activities, giving them a voice they didn't have before.
Using the Stop Motion Studio app, students can start making stop motion videos! They will be able to create their own videos, bringing stories and poetry to life.
Learning about circuits, students can combine natural materials with electronic components to make a nature bot!
Learning doesn’t just happen. Rather, it’s something you work at. Making can help students develop that growth mindset we want them to have, teaching them to push through obstacles and be resilient in the face of failure. Our students need the skills to succeed in a constantly changing world. Robots, computer programming, upcycling, and STEAM building challenges are all engaging ways of learning the essential skills of collaboration, communication, and digital literacy. These skills are critical to providing children with opportunities relevant to today's world, and having these resources will help to put our students on a level playing field in the future. Building and making is a way for some students to know something deeply. We have the opportunity to ignite a passion in them so they become doctors, architects, scientists and astronomers. We can start this when they are young so they grow up believing that they can and that they have the ability to do so. According to Dale Dougherty, Editor & Publisher of Make Magazine, “By the process of tinkering, we learn how to change and shape the world in small but significant ways and adapt it to our personal needs.” Making will open doors of opportunity for all our students, and I know they will have a positive impact on the world.
Is it really the end of December?! I feel like I've blinked and part of the school year is already over. The curiosity, thinking, and wondering that has happened in the library so far is truly incredible.
Here is an update on the learning taking place in the library!
Kindergarten and First Grade- The students have been learning about sequencing and cause-effect. They now know how to sort, think, and arrange stories into proper order. We read If You Give A Mouse A Cookie and If You Give A Dog A Donut by Laura Numeroff to practice predicting what comes next in a story. The students did an excellent job of putting the beginning, middle, and end parts into the correct story order.
Students then had a chance to become their own storytellers! Using picture cards as clues, students made up their own story orders and told their own versions to each other.
Second and Third Grade- I have been incorporating STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) into the students' scheduled library time. They are reading, planning, and building as student-led teams. Some of the teams are following blueprints to build vehicles, robots, and spring boards. Others have been building things from their own imagination. They are having lots of fun along the way! I have noticed an increased inclination to build, fix, and experiment within our learning environment. I see my students taking things apart and seeing how the pieces fit together, making plans and a list of steps before building. They are building, inventing, and creating! The students are mastering early engineering concepts, becoming comfortable with hands-on problem solving, and building communication skills with one another.
I hope everyone has a wonderful break and happy holidays!
Mrs. Keohane is the School Librarian at the P.A. Shaw. She loves hockey, going to the beach, and reading (obviously!)