Tell us a little bit about your school community! What is one way in which your school community helps advance STEM education for young people?
St. Michael’s School has an ongoing commitment to STEM project-based learning, and this year we are back on track with designated project time each week to engage students in these collaborative opportunities. Our extended STEM team works together to help to facilitate the various projects, with several of our math, science, and art instructors each bringing their own unique gifts.
This was on display when students were working on building their Future City models. At first, many student teams were having a hard time building vertically. Their drawn designs were elaborate, but they could not figure out how to build up. Then, the revelation: their designs were drawn flat, in two dimensions! As soon as our art teacher provided instruction on point perspective drawing, drawing in three dimensions, the students were able to build vertically. The art teacher now provides extensive instruction in point perspective drawing, growing students’ skills in visualizing and drawing in three dimensions.
This lesson will carry into student engineering designs across all of our grade levels:
– Grades K-4: iteratively develop a functional arcade game for the annual Caine’s Arcade Festival
– Grade 5: participate in Biztown by designing, making, and selling products to the community
– Grade 6: participate in the annual school Invention Convention
– Grade 7: submit science projects in the Greater San Diego Science and Engineering Fair; creatively design and showcase their “dream dwellings”
– Grade 8: develop a culminating project by designing, building, and managing an innovative city that exists one hundred years in the future (applying what they’ve learned across social studies, math, science, and art)
Reflecting on your Blueprint plan, how does your School Team hope to more deeply engage STEM in your school and local communities?
St Michael’s School is working to make STEM more inclusive for all students. We already have several elements in place (e.g. single gendered math and science classes in 7th and 8th grade; structured homework support for MS students), but even with these, many of our teachers want to do more with STEM integration. For our Blueprint, we are working on a framework for STEM integration at St. Michael’s School. With our larger school STEM team, we will work to assist and mentor classroom teachers in implementing STEM activities in their classes.
Right now, students can engage in things like coding, 3D printing, and design challenges in our after-school STEM clubs, but we want to engage all students in these activities within the school day, and we want to make sure the themes for these activities emphasize problem solving for the greater good. At the Summer Institute, we learned the importance of challenging students to develop solutions that serve as a force for good. Utilizing what we learned, we are amazed to see how this small change in thinking created a big impact in student learning. We feel students are more engaged and are deepening their understanding of science and math.We will be looking for ways to measure the effect of emphasizing real-world problem solving on student learning.
As part of our commitment to integrated STEM education, we are building a dedicated STEM lab (see picture!). As the STEM lab build out is completed, we hope all teachers will utilize the space and resources with their students. Equipping and managing the STEM lab is an area where we hope to engage our community stakeholders as well as our Trustey Fellows across the country.
In what ways have you been able to — or hope to — engage different stakeholders within your school community (e.g. other members of your local or school community) or other Fellows across the country?
Following the Summer Institute, our Trustey Team rallied a number of St. Michael’s School teachers into forming a larger STEM team at our school, and we successfully engaged our S.T.E.M. and art discipline teachers as part of the team. Moving forward, we plan to involve more cross-curricular subject instructors like ELA and Social Studies. Beyond the walls of our school, we plan to pick up where we left off prior to the pandemic by building partnerships with San Diego Science Alliance organizations. Our STEM team attended the San Diego Science Expo Day in March 2020 and met several organization reps from the local universities, Qualcomm, General Atomics, and local biotech companies (e.g. Ilumina). We hope to develop relationships with these organizations to engage our students in authentic, real-world experiences. With a very proactive advisory board, strategic planning team, and Parent-Teacher Group, we are hoping that we can foster relationships with these groups as we move forward with our STEM Blueprint and (new!) STEM Lab.