Teachers and administrators at Aliso Elementary School have enacted a shared vision of a science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) program that will catapult their campus to the level of a “STEAM School,” fully integrated with Next Generation Science Standards. With interest in students developing key foundational skills that are essential to participate in a fast-paced digital world, Aliso established a series of goals that they began to meet in Spring of 2017 when the school distributed Chromebooks and developed the Exploration Lab, significantly increasing accessibility to technology for students.
After attending a Google Summit last June, Principal Dr. Michelle Fox and teachers Ryan Francisco and Brett Weiberg, along with Amanda Ochs and Melissa Tramel, formed the STEAM committee at the start of the 2017/2018 school year. With the help of a Carpinteria Education Foundation grant and parent donations, Aliso was able to purchase further needed items for the Exploration Lab. Several teachers have now attended a STEAM conference and another group will head to the next Google Summit this summer. Moreover, CUSD has equipped every classroom with technology tools that make the integration of new technology easier.
“We wanted to provide our students with real-life, hands-on learning experiences that would allow them more opportunities to work collaboratively with their peers developing their skills in communication, problem-solving and critical thinking,” said fifth-grade teacher Francisco. It’s not only technical abilities that students are cultivating, they are also developing self-confidence and grit. “We are seeing more teamwork, working together on a vision and collaboration as they work to accomplish a goal. They are excited about learning, more comfortable speaking and explaining their thoughts to their peers and to their teachers.”
Additionally, students are showing strides in utilizing strategies for independent learning. “When we provide a new challenge in our Exploration Lab, children often head to the library looking for books on the subjects that they were introduced to.” At home, students are talking to their parents about STEAM activities that they did at school.
Aliso is also integrating STEAM into professional development, core curriculum and wrap-around services. “Increasing teacher knowledge is crucial to ongoing success. We have been doing a lot with technology this year and with the district’s adoption of a new science program next year, we hope to continue building our capacity in that area,” stated Fox. “What is also exciting is that our after-school program is working on STEAM skills too,” Fox added, “ so students have the opportunity to apply these skills in different settings and really work to expand their wisdom and experience.”
In partnership with Aliso’s STEAM committee, Procore offered a series of onsite workshops for fifth-graders, in which company team members led a hands-on, tech-based activity utilizing their original Brick by Brick software and Lego activity set. The workshop simulates the steps for project management of a construction, design and engineering project. Students are equipped with a laptop, an iPad and Legos and must race against the clock to complete their project while role playing different key positions in the development process.
“Procore.org is excited to partner with local schools to help develop career exploration for students and support the local teaching staff in developing new ways of broadening students’ horizons,” said Darryl Kysar, director of Procore.org/. In fact, Brick by Brick is being played across the country in schools and after-school programs.
“We saw this trip (to Procore) as an opportunity to expose our students to some very impressive things that are taking place in their city. We also wanted to give them the idea that many of the things they have been learning through STEAM integration at Aliso could be applied to real life situations,” Francisco said. “The trip was also a chance to inspire students with a vision of where all of their hard work and effort could someday lead them.” Indeed, students expressed excitement and inspiration after visiting Procore, with several saying that they want to work there someday or hold one of the roles that they practiced during the Brick by Brick activity, according to Francisco. “One student, for example, claimed that they enjoyed being the construction manager because they wanted to, ‘make sure everyone followed the rules and got paid on time,’ while others simply loved to build and design or give guidance to others. It was really awesome to see all of this take place. It was also really cool to see how many women Procore has in leadership roles who were also there working with our students. I feel that was a powerful image for all of our young and inspiring students to see.”
Funding to sustain the STEAM program however, will be an ongoing issue. “Competing programs within the district and other priorities may limit our attention and ability to build a successful STEAM program,” said Fox, “Finding funding to support the program down the road may also be a challenge.”