A Peek into the Classroom: STEAM and the Ingenuity Lab at Lone Pine Elementary
Kindergarten students enter the Ingenuity Lab and are greeted by Mrs. Gordon, the Lone Pine STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) teacher. Materials around the room include an eclectic grouping of “maker” supplies: spools of twine, tubs of paper clips, boxes of sandwich bags, straws, and colorful foam pieces, among many others. The walls are decorated with bright, positive posters and the classroom essential agreements. The students gather on the carpet to hear a story about a community coming together to build a garden in an abandoned lot. Mrs. Gordon asks the students to give a thumbs up every time they hear about teamwork. After the story, Mrs. Gordon helps students organize into groups and gives instructions to work together to build a picture. The picture can be anything, as long as the group decides together what it will be. Mrs. Gordon offers an example, explaining, “If I want to create a heart, and you want to make a dog, that is not collaboration, we have to agree.” The groups receive bins of colorful 3-D shapes and get to work on their creations.
Mrs. Gordon, who works with students of all elementary grades, says an important theme in STEAM class is teamwork and collaboration. “In all the projects that we do, it’s a lot of problem-solving, and we talk about how more minds are better than one. Sometimes we start with our own idea, and someone else may give us feedback and it grows our idea into something else, so, to learn how to work with each other, and to learn how to communicate with each other is really going to be helpful and will benefit them in the long run.”
Later in the day, fourth grade students practice collaboration in their STEAM session. They work together through the design and building phases to create a toy or a game. Similar to the kindergarteners, the groups must come up with their ideas collaboratively, work on the designs together, and then build the prototypes. Mrs. Gordon witnesses one group who is having some difficulty coming to a consensus. The teacher sits with the group and asks questions leading them to a path of teamwork. After completing the day’s work, students take advantage of STEAM bins. “Each bin has a task card that kids can use as a challenge, essentially asking them to solve a problem or build a specific item - it’s really about using different tools to create different things. It does look like play, but play is really good for kids, and the kids need it. It helps them visualize things in their head,” describes Mrs. Gordon.
Whether Mrs. Gordon is working with five year olds or 10 year olds, the concept of teamwork and collaboration weaves itself through every lesson. STEAM is about learning to work together, creatively and collaboratively. Kindergarten student Jackson Stricher comprehends it perfectly, exclaiming, “We thought of these [ideas] alone and then we combined them. We get to collaborate!”