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This is Where Curiosity is Born

School News January 05, 2023
This is Where Curiosity is Born

At WASCZ, our K2 and K3 STEAM classes form a fun and exciting part of our week. We think of STEAM as using Science and Technology to explore Engineering, Art and Mathematics. As you can guess, there is a near endless number of areas to explore. Unlike other classes, where teacher input is essential for the lesson, STEAM classes put our students in the driver seat; allowing them to use their critical thinking skills to make crucial decisions, identify and solve problems.

While the direction for our STEAM lessons come from our monthly theme, we try to embrace an emergent curriculum where student interests dictate the STEAM activities we engage with.

For example, using December’s monthly theme of ‘Winter Wonderland’, a K3 class was brainstorming winter vocabulary during a literacy lesson. Many snow related words came up – snowflake, snowman, snowy, and snow-house. Did they mean a snow fort, or perhaps an igloo? After a bit of discussion, it was clear they had meant igloo. It was a funny word that immediately caught everyone’s attention. The more it was said, the more interesting it was. What was an igloo? Were they for playing or did people live in them? How did you build an igloo? When asked if they would like to try and build their own igloo, the class replied with a resounding, “YES!” From student curiosity our STEAM lesson was born.

STEAM lessons start off with a group discussion, where the topic is explored as a class together. None of us had ever been inside an igloo, so we decided to take a virtual tour and see what they looked like on the inside. The class was shocked by what they saw. Not only did people live inside igloos (some of us thought they were only for playing), but people could cook and sleep inside them also! In fancier versions, igloos also had beautiful furniture and art carved into the walls, some even had electricity! This was an eye-opening experience for the class; previously imagined bare, icy walls were being replaced with ornate and beautifully sculpted interiors. Not only had our understanding grown, but so had our excitement for building our own igloos.

A central part of STEAM lessons is to have the students work in small groups where they can share ideas and discuss how they should solve the task at hand. Teachers, instead of telling students what to do simply set the stage for them – give them a task and then let the students work together to solve it. Students love the responsibility and teachers are regularly surprised by the ingenuity of their class. STEAM lessons are fun for everyone!

Right from the start, students realised two key problems. 1) how to get all the “ice blocks” to stick together? And 2) how to get the last piece in, closing the roof? To solve these problems, some students decided to use matchsticks to secure their igloo blocks. Others decided to use playdoh as a mortar and try to cement them together. What’s great is that these were student solutions to the problems they identified. At no point during our initial discussion on igloos did we discuss either these problems, or the solutions. The identification of, and brainstorming solutions to, problems is what makes STEAM such a fun and educational class. Students are developing the skills they need to troubleshoot problems as they arise – a skillset we all need for success in the real world.

With our igloos completed, we got back together as a class and evaluated our creations. We talked about how easy, or difficult, it was to make the igloos, identified the key challenges and the solutions they came up with. Near the end of class, we decided to stress test the igloos to see which could handle being shaken, and which could survive a 30cm drop.

In short, STEAM as WASCZ is one of our most engaging and entertaining lessons of the week. Students love being challenged to take ownership of a situation and think up solutions to real work problems. While we are just having fun in class, we know the skills they are developing through these lessons will serve them well through their whole life!