When new STEAM Teacher Sarah Lant visited Mrs. Yager’s 3rd grade class recently, students grew excited as they listened to her ideas to make their animal research reports more fun.
Ms. Lant shared a short video other students had made where they appeared to stand next to wild animals while they shared facts they had learned.
The class could make a similar video, Ms. Lant explained, using a green screen app she found or something else creative.
“I thought it was cool you could hear the animals,” remarked student Lynx Sample.
“They showed us real pictures of animals they were talking about,” added student Emma Kullman.
“We are very excited to work with you on your animal research,” Mrs. Yager told her class. “Ms. Lant is here to help make it absolutely amazing.”
Adding a STEAM Teacher at CES
Having a Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math Teacher to help excite Castleton Elementary School students about STEAM has been a district plan for several years.
The school created an Innovative Learning Lab as part of the last Capital Project from the old main office, which was moved to improve building security. It was not until this school year, however, that the district had the resources to hire a STEAM teacher to lead a program.
Offering a STEAM lab in an elementary setting has inherent challenges that requires a teacher to run the program, explained Superintendent Jason Chevrier. Classroom teachers, for example, cannot leave their students to set up a lab for an activity.
“We thought long and hard about how to staff the position and we modeled it after what we consider a very successful program at CES, our library media program,” said Mr. Chevrier.
That program has created building-wide excitement for reading and expanded students’ research skills through the collaborative work of Library Media Specialist Stacey Rattner and classroom teachers.
Ms. Lant takes a similar approach, actively learning about what projects teachers are planning and finding ways she can help make them more engaging for students. In other instances, she offers STEAM activities such as challenging students to build towers from toothpicks and mini-marshmallows.
“Sarah really has this unique ability to make connections across different areas and connect STEAM to reading, writing, math and soft skills like teamwork, collaboration and problem solving,” said Mr. Chevrier. “We have very talented teachers at CES who are always excited to provide unique experiences for students and Sarah is a great partner for those teachers.”
Hands On Learning in Innovative Learning Lab
Sheila Golden’s 1st grade class recently participated in the Candy Tower activity when they visited the Innovative Learning Lab. After encouraging students to brainstorm about what shapes they could create, Ms. Lant set teams of 1st graders to work together to create towers.
“You have 15 minutes to build the tallest tower you can,”Ms. Lant instructed students. “Are you ready to build?”
“Yeah!” students responded enthusiastically.
Working in teams of four, students tried a variety of approaches as they constructed their towers from mini-marshmallows and toothpicks. One group creatively hooked theirs on a cabinet handle before Ms. Lant reminded them with a smile that the towers had to be freestanding.
At the end of the activity, Ms. Lant and Mrs. Golden brought students back together to review results and ask them about what challenges they had and how they overcame them.
“When we’re here in the Innovative Learning Lab we’re going to solve problems like this,” Ms. Lant told students.
Principal James Derby noted the school is excited to see the opportunities Ms. Lant will help create as she gets to know teachers and students even better. Her experience working with older and younger students in previous districts along with her background in science research and literacy make her an ideal person to lead the Innovative Learning Lab, Mr. Derby said.
“Sarah is brilliant. She understands students and has an ability to connect with a whole class, not just students who may be excited about STEAM or the project they’re doing together,” said Mr.Derby. “That will help our students whether or not they pursue STEAM as a career because when they get to high school they’ll be engaged in that topic and want to learn more about it.”