Conversations in Education
From teacher book groups to conversations in the faculty lounge, Prep faculty and administrators think a lot about how we support students. Each month in 2017-18, we are featuring a piece by a Prep faculty member or administrator that gives a slice of life at Prep. If you would like to share your ideas, feel free to comment on an individual post or contact Dean of Studies Sarah Cooper.
From teacher book groups to conversations in the faculty lounge, Prep faculty read and talk a lot about education. Each month we highlight a few memorable pieces or videos. Our goal is to make the process of parenting, learning and living a little saner, to put things a little more in perspective. These articles will be chosen by Prep teachers and administrators. If you want to share your ideas, feel free to comment on an individual post or contact Dean of Studies Sarah Cooper.
STEAM & Service: Stronger Together
By Laura Kaufman and Nick Ponticello
It is the year 2030 and you’ve made contact with an alien species. You can communicate through images alone. Which pictures will you send to these extraterrestrial beings to convey the nature of the human race?
It is this kind of question that our students try to answer at Prep’s STEAM & Service Fair. As adults, today’s students will be solving problems that aren’t even on our radar. To help our students develop the skills they will need to tackle these unforeseeable questions, we look to provide them with opportunities to think creatively, cooperatively, and interdisciplinarily.
By incorporating aspects of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) into our curriculum, we teach the kind of adaptive thinking and reasoning skills necessary to turn our students into innovators.
It starts with program and curriculum design. Prep’s faculty STEAM Team meets after school once a month to brainstorm and refine projects that take place inside and outside of our classrooms. Our shared goal is to encourage students to approach problems from new perspectives, through engagement in activities that ignite their passions and showcase their individuality.
For example, 9th grade biology students are asked to bring an understanding of biochemistry to cooking a favorite food item. Art students are asked to apply their knowledge of physics to a bottle of paint swinging on a pendulum. And geometry students are asked to use their knowledge of triangles to balance the perfect mobile.
But development of skills and discovery of passions is just a first step. Scientist and author Carl Sagan once said, “Who are we, if not measured by our impact on others?” Our STEAM & Service Fair reimagines the multiple ways in which our students define themselves through their impact.
Some of the most exemplary examples of how STEAM and service can complement and strengthen one another arise through the 8th grade community impact projects. Every 8th grader spends more than half the school year designing a service activity, putting it into motion, and measuring the impact they’ve had on the community.
For example, Colin Ng ’22 and John Stetson ’22 are mixing science, technology, design, and service by teaching a student at Club 21 to play basketball. They are filming the experience and editing a video to post on the Club 21 website in order to bring more awareness to Down syndrome.
Colin and John’s project combines the best of STEAM and service, using multiple techniques to educate our community about Down syndrome through videographic displays and scientific measurements. You’ll see the results of projects like this on display at the STEAM & Service Fair, where all the 8th graders will be discussing the broader implications of their work.
Our youngest students also integrate STEAM and/or service into their curricula. At the fair, you will also see animated movies designed by 7th graders that use the programming language Scratch to illustrate lessons they learned in academic classes, such as the order of operations in math and an overview of digestion from start to finish.
Meanwhile, STEAM learning continues in high school. You will see photo boxes inspired by NASA’s Golden Record, each containing its own interpretation of the human condition—a project of the 10th grade photography class in collaboration with English classes. You will see students presenting traditional science fair projects that investigate the most efficient wind turbines and the most effective water purification methods. And you will see the 12th graders’ anatomical design projects.
The STEAM & Service Fair is also a great place to get to know our robotics team and our DIY club. From flower-dyed fabrics to automated machines, these extracurricular clubs show off the very best of design thinking and hands-on making.
At the STEAM & Service Fair, our students share their passions with the community. By mixing STEAM and community awareness, they start wondering what they can bring to the table and how they can leave their mark on the world.
We hope that you’ll come check out all the amazing projects on display at the upcoming STEAM & Service Fair: Thursday, February 8, from 7-8:30 pm in the gym!
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