The following blog was contributed by Gena Schleimer, 7th and 8th Grade Science Teacher, Project Lead the Way Instructor and Science and STREAM Coordinator at St. Agnes Catholic School in Roeland Park, KS.
When I began working as a 7th/8th Grade Science teacher at our school, I knew that I wanted to implement a STREAM program. It seemed like a daunting task at the time, but it was the critical piece missing from our school. There were three questions of focus in laying out this program for our school: WHY? WHO? HOW?
As Catholic educators, we know the importance of WHY (students engaged in learning, collaborating, problem-solving, sharing our faith, and being mentored by professionals from the parish/community), but your community and stake holders need to know WHY you are starting this program—this is your mission statement. A great resource to help with identifying the WHY is Middle Web: Building a STEM Program/STEM by Design.
Once you have your mission statement it’s time to focus on the WHO and HOW. These two are essential in putting together a successful STREAM program. I realized quickly that you can’t just put a couple of things together and call it a program. It had to be a comprehensive faith-filled approach, so a committee of involved participants was put together. This ranged from administration, teaching staff, and parents who are professionals in the STEAM fields. This committee helped put together the WHO of our program. Our committee meets once a quarter, including a summer meeting, to help drive our mission as well as focus to identify mentors within our parish and surrounding community. We use a Google Team Drive to help keep all data, meeting minutes, Google Sheets of mentors, schedules and class attendees organized.
Now for the fun part: HOW? I’m an idea person and I love to bring everything I can to our school. My biggest recommendation is once you have your committee in place, look at what you are already doing that is STREAM related, and see how those events, lessons, and curriculum can be enhanced with professional mentors. Students are so much more engaged when they work with mentors in STREAM fields. Your parish and school community are great places to start.
The HOW of our STREAM program included a STREAM Wednesday (described below), school-wide science curriculum focusing on the 5Es Inquiry Model of Instruction, Project Lead the Way (PLTW) courses for our seventh and eighth grades, STREAM after-school programs: Team America Rocket Challenge, Mad Science, Science Stars, FIRST Lego Robotics, Master Junior Gardeners, Femineers, and Art Club. One night a year, we have a STREAM night called Celebration of Learning where our school focuses on STREAM and each class shares a completed project with parents, mentors, and community, as well as hands-on activities for all.
Once we identified the above areas, we focused on a specific time each week where we could get mentors together with our students. We call this STREAM Wednesdays. We attend Mass and then our fifth through eighth grade students attend a five-week session focused on STREAM to work with mentors to complete a problem-based project. While this part of program took the longest to implement, this has been one of the most successful components of our STREAM program. Our students are engaged, collaborating, problem-solving, and working with mentors each and every week.
While implementing a STREAM program can take time and effort, it will be one of the best programs you have at your school. Once you identify the WHY, WHO, and HOW, the program will begin to take shape and become a favorite part of your school’s overall mission. What school doesn’t want a program where students are enriching their lives and souls for the future?