I like that word "imagineer," but I cannot take credit for its origin. Tech & Learning posted a blog titled, "REinvent," that features Northfield Community School (NCS) in New Jersey and their efforts to "imagineer" their K-4 Computer Lab into a STEM experience. The idea originated with a parent who thought students would master core subjects better if the computer lab work focused on a hands-on STEM curriculum.
According to a teacher at the school, "The K4STEMLAB vision is to combine the best of what we now know as 'Computer Lab' and hands-on, inquiry-driven 'STEM' (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) projects in a brand-new, as-yet-undesigned mobile learning classroom space."
The blog includes pictures of the computer lab as it looked 9 years ago versus how it looks today. Also there are several videos that further explain this vision. One of these videos appears below:
Anyone who wants to follow the adventure for these students is welcome to read the school's blog posts at http://blogs.ncs-nj.org/k4stemlab/.
What do you think of this concept to incorporate STEM into K-4 learning?
Can you envision other ways to adapt a course curriculum to integrate all of the STEM subjects at any grade level?
Lynne, thanks so much for posting about my project! School's not even over yet and we're feverishly getting ready for September. There's so much to do!
I personally feel this model - with a STEM experience as a "Special" - has terrific potential for districts that want to get started with STEM. Let's be clear: the essence of STEM is already part of many every elementary classroom experiences (from what I've seen, it already is, it's called "Science"). What we are trying to do is supplement those wonderful experiences by turning my "Computer Lab" special into a course with a STEM focus.
We are presently looking at the Museum of Science's Engineering is Elementary program as a starting point. We've heard and seen great things come out of this program and I am going to Boston for a few days in August to learn all about it (thanks to a grant from Raytheon).
I am very interested however in any and every "STEM" or "engineering" related lesson that "fits" into a "rotation" model. I'll be honest, I'd love to have a classroom of the same kids for 180 days to dive into this, but that's not my mission. I've got to make this experience memorable and valuable for all 525 kids in our elementary school, in 42-minute, once-a-week increments. Discussions here should help a lot.
I can't wait to get started! Thanks again!
p.s. any one interested can follow our project on the Tech & Learning Blog and here on our own blog: http://blogs.ncs-nj.org/k4stemlab/. I will be cross-posting!
p.p.s. Disney coined the term 'imagineering' - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disney_Imagineer
I was so pleased to read your post and learn that you are the teacher in the 4KSTEMLAB. I am so impressed with your project and will follow it with great interest. I wrote and taught courses for an Advanced Communications and Networking program in a high school computer lab. I was always amazed at the knowledge of my students. As digital natives, they probably taught me as much as I taught them. It was a wonderful experience collaborating our efforts, and the students were eager to learn since the skills were relevant to the real world of technology careers.
I hope others will join in this discussion and share some ideas for your new curriculum. I'm sure it will be a busy summer preparing for the September launch of this new endeavor. Keep us posted, and I appreciate the additional blog link.
Thanks again for sharing your enthusiasm.
I am very excited to learn about someone else transforming their traditional "computer lab" into a STEM lab. This thought occurred to me while at the NSTA STEM conference in May and I'm moving forward with the same idea at my school next year. The idea of integrating a more hands-on, inquiry based learning environment seems so logical in this day and age. Kevin, our structure is very similar to yours where students attend computer lab once a week for 45 minute blocks of time. I would love to share thoughts and ideas as you move forward. I look to referencing your blog and following your progress.
Hello Michelle! Thanks for replying! This is great! There must be others who have done this before we can learn from. Let's stay in touch! Are you on Twitter? I'm @kjarrett there. You should also comment on some of my blog posts, you can follow along that way. Or, follow the whole blog via RSS. Where are you located? Are you on Google Plus? We could do a "hangout" sometime perhaps!
Amazing!! I am totally in awe of teachers that integrate STEM skills/knowledge into learning across the curriculum. It certainly doesn't have to be a science class or a computer lab for the STEM skills to be applied and learning integrated and enriched.
In working with the Wonderopolis team, I was terribly impressed by the creative use of daily Wonders--doing so across the curriculum AND across student learning levels. One high school teacher of Sports and Entertainment Marketing (and I didn't even know that was offered at the high school level!) used Wonder 126: What's So Super About Super Bowl Sunday? as a springboard for his students to create computer generated Super Bowl tickets, and then used an online tool to vote for their favorites as well. Even the losing designs were phenomenal, showing amazing technological proficiency. I expect students and teachers who use the online Wonderopolis resource to have a basic level of technological skills, but this was a great example of applied and scaffolded skills with meaningful learning around something of interest to students.
I was so impressed to read about a new interactive children's exhibit at our Danville (VA) Science Center that is an imagination playground--enormous lightweight blocks in a variety of shapes. The playground can be set up indoors or outdoors as weather permits. How cool is that?
The imagination playground promotes play to reinforce principles of STEM by allowing children of multiple ages to have access to productive and collaborative play while experimenting and implementing concepts of physics, math, and engineering.
At the Imagination Playground website, Matt Goldman, Co-Founder of the Blue School, says, "Imagination Playground blocks are an incredible play system for unlocking children's creative spirit."
What do you think of this innovative playground equipment for teaching STEM concepts?