Working with Families to Build Problem Solving Skills in Young Learners through STEAM
by Barbie Vargo (Kindergarten Teacher – Propel Northside) who hosted a STEAM K-2 event with Snapology (Lego Education) as part of an Innovation Grant, which centers around community and parent involvement.
“Look Mom– Chewbacca’s riding down my roller coaster!” cried, Jaivien DeVito, an excited Propel Northside kindergarten student in attendance at a Sturdy Roots Meeting. To an outside observer, Jaivien DeVito was seemingly playing with legos, but according to the latest research in education, Javien was developing character traits that will enable him to creatively solve real world problems.
STEAM education which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics is an innovative hands on approach challenging traditional perceptions about instruction and the classroom environment. Rather than sitting at desks writing down definitions or memorizing equations, students are encouraged to use tools disguised as toys to learn new concepts. By being provided with materials such as Legos, K’NEX, and Hot Wheels tracks, students have the opportunity to engage in authentic learning experiences that strengthen academic understanding along with creative problem solving skills. By combining education with play, being a young scholar has never looked so good!
Excited to bring quality experiences to our students and inform families about best practices and academic approaches, Mrs. Ward and I founded The Sturdy Roots Project. The project seeks to strengthen our school community by connecting primary students and their families with resources to support at home learning. At our most recent event, my partner teacher and I invited guests from Snapology, a company that utilizes legos to actively engage children in creative learning experiences, to Propel Northside to teach students and families about STEAM. Participants worked collaboratively during this STEAM session to construct a motorized roller coaster composed of legos. The creative energy in the room was palpable as students worked alongside family members to build their coasters. The activity infused a multitude of disciplines, as students were encouraged to artistically express themselves through illustrating pictures of their coasters. Finally, the project incorporated elements of literacy instruction through prompting the emerging engineers to identify and write about their roller coasters’ unique attributes.
Participation in STEAM based learning experiences empower students to have a blast while strengthening content knowledge and developing character traits. The STEAM approach enables the learning process to become equally as valuable as the end result. Students engaging in this active learning approach are required to find answers by exploring solutions, rather than conforming to formulas. Problem solving encourages peer collaboration and perseverance. Furthermore, brain research shows that character traits such as gratitude, grit, optimism, and self control are proven to increase academic and life success.
Fred Rogers notably said, “Play is really the work of childhood.” With companies that were once considered toy manufacturers developing curriculum materials, it is apparent that education is transforming. To an outside observer, STEAM based practice appears to be mere play, but in actuality, this play based learning approach is shaping a future of collaborative and creative real world problem solvers. According to student feedback gathered on Monday night, “STEAM is awesome!” As an educator, I couldn’t agree more.
For more information regarding STEAM, Character Development, and Snapology, check out the sites below: