In Ann Arbor Public Schools, we consider our approach to implementing STEAM learning in three parallel pathways, along three lines of endeavor, and often compare these pathways to a ‘sprinkle, rain, pour’ analogy.
First, we engage students in STEAM learning, developing STEAM ‘habits of mind’ in all of our Ann Arbor classrooms. This pathway includes practicing and developing the skills of exploring real-world problems, learning across content areas, developing the habits of critical and design thinking, and producing authentic work for a real-world audience. For example, in STEAM classrooms, students don’t just study scientists, they become scientists. In beginning to implement these subtle shifts in how we design the learning environment, every classroom becomes a STEAM learning opportunity and our students experience STEAM learning every day in AAPS classrooms.
Examples of the sprinkle approach to STEAM learning can be as simple as: using a design process to create a project, pursuing a learning endeavor – across multiple content areas – to solve a real-world problem, or presenting a performance of learning beyond the four walls of the classroom.
Secondly, we have been on a mission for several years to develop focused program options where students have the opportunity to connect with full STEAM learning experiences as a part of their AAPS education experience. These learning experiences occur as part of the day, a portion of the week, or at a dedicated time during the year. Students connect with particular STEAM learning experiences, for example, within a Project Lead the Way (PTLW) classroom, in an after-school robotics club, or in one of our many Rec & Ed STEAM learning opportunities.
We are excited to share that with the addition of Project Lead The Way across our district. AAPS will soon be one of few districts in the country to offer the PLTW program across grades K-12. This past summer, Rec & Ed offered several STEAM-themed camps, including one where student campers engineered underwater ‘rovers’ that they used to explore the Huron River. Rec & Ed is offering more project-based, hands-on learning opportunities with after school classes such as WeDo Robotics, Lego Mindstorms and Video Game programming; Rec & Ed offers STEAM classes and camps for children as young as three. In implementing these carefully designed, full-on STEAM learning experiences, AAPS students may choose to ‘dive in’ to STEAM learning in a variety of ways in specific dedicated classrooms, after-school clubs and activities, and through quality Rec & Ed experiences.
Finally, as we consider the progression of implementing STEAM learning along three pathways, we also recognize opportunities to transform specific learning environments via immersive STEAM learning opportunities. These innovative learning experiences have been designed, from their inception, to foster STEAM learning, and they engage students in making a global impact through their learning. These full-on STEAM learning settings often impact life identity for students, as they are transformed by the work they create.