A Toolkit for the Future
The 3 Rs are not enough. Coding and computer science are not enough. Science and the arts are not enough. To successfully navigate our unknowable future, students will need to have a varied and well-honed set of tools at their disposal. And STEAM provides a critical set of tools.
STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) education is an integrated approach fueled by curiosity. It develops critical skills not in traditional academic courses alone, such as complex problem solving, persistence, and collaboration. Park’s STEAM program, which uses project-based and applied learning, helps students develop critical thinking and empathy and connects their learning to the real world. To develop familiarity (and eventually expertise) with STEAM tools, Park’s youngest students begin learning robotics and basic coding while playing with Bee-Bots in PreK.
Project-based learning impels students to ask “Why?” and “How does it work?” and enables them to discover their own answers. In STEAM education, the use of tools and technology is driven by academic need. Students must think, “What is the right tool for this task?” and “How can I best use my knowledge?” At every grade level, they have access to iPads and/or Chromebooks to support and complement their hands-on work.
The Park School has a dedicated academic technology specialist who collaborates with classroom teachers to design projects incorporating age-appropriate design thinking, engineering, and maker skills. Enthusiasm for learning these skills is clearly evident: groups like the Coding Club in Grades 2–5, the Tech Leaders Club, and the Upper Division Girls Who Code Club all meet regularly. And quite a few Upper Division students have submitted applications for unique independent “maker” projects they want to undertake through the SPARK@Park pilot elective program.
“Making” and STEAM happens everywhere at Park—in the classroom, the Library, and our state-of-the-art Makerspace. Park’s makerspaces employ an array of high-tech and low-tech tools, from 3D printers and laser cutters to hot-glue guns and scissors. What each space and each tool shares in common is the process they entail and the essential student learning they enable.
Grade 7 Probability Carnival
While studying probability theory, seventh graders design and create games of chance to be displayed in an “arcade” for Lower Division students. The games cost one to three tickets to play, based on the chances of winning, and they feature unique game pieces, spinners, and dice the students have made using laser cutters and 3D printers in the Makerspace. Many game makers also use the vinyl cutter to create uniform and appealing lettering for their game boards or posters. Upon entering the Carnival, the young visitors each receive ten tickets—and the games begin! The math learning continues as seventh graders analyze the data from their game results.
students will visit the Makerspace this year
of students in PreK–Grade 6 participated in a coding / programming / robotics activity in 2018-19
projects have been designed on Tinkercad and 3D-printed in the Makerspace