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STEAM in Poland

September 22, 2016

STREAM camp

img_4192xThank you to Poland Community School art educator, Jonathan Graffius who shared the following information on the summer “STREAM camp” that took place in RSU16. As you will read it was a fabulous opportunity for elementary school student to dive deep into the connections between science, technology, reading, engineering, the arts, and math. During February break 2016 Jonathan designed a STEAM camp so this next step was built on what he learned from that first experience. A meartsed blog post on the STEAM camp is at THIS LINK.

For the STREAM camp, Jonathan designed the concept and the art projects, as well as, making the contacts at the Maine Wildlife park, but there was a team approach to providing the instruction and assessments related to reading, writing and math.  The funding came from a grant that was written by the RSU16 assistant superintendent who also assembled the entire instructional team. Since Jonathan states up front that his expertise is not in reading and writing, therefore he sees the benefits of bringing the staff together who specialize  in literacy and its related classroom instruction. The team worked extremely well together and developed a “center” approach to the STREAM camp instruction that brought individualized literacy instruction to the project. 

RSU 16 SUMMER SCHOOL EXPERIENCE  – In Jonathan’s own words…img_3586

This summer, RSU 16 received a grant allowing Title I students entering grades 3 and 4 to participate in a unique and engaging 4 week STEAM experience. Our goal was to maintain spring reading scores, while providing an engaging program that focused on researching, reading, writing, and creating art based on the animals who live at the Maine Wildlife Park in Gray, Maine. Throughout this program, students positively responded to literacy instruction, participated in a variety of engineering projects, received small group instruction, went on field trips to gather information to influence their work, and were given individualized instructional time with teachers from multiple backgrounds. The staff consisted of classroom teachers, literacy specialists, general education and special education ed techs. Together the team brought their expertise and experience to deliver instruction through center rotations and three highly engaging field trips to the Maine Wildlife Park.

img_3705Each morning students were greeted with a written building challenge. Students were allowed to work individually or in small groups. Students primarily used wooden blocks and craft sticks to solve the daily building challenges, which involved architectural concepts like column, post, beam, cantilever, arch, and span. Building challenges included specific criteria that allowed for a personal aesthetic and individualized problem-solving. These engaging challenges also required students to apply math skills, primarily through the measuring and recording of data, such as height, number of blocks, span distances, and carrying weight, in their science journals. All of the finished products were photographed.

We gathered every morning after our building challenge to conduct a morning meeting. Following components from the responsive classroom model, morning meeting was an important part of every day because it allowed us to become comfortable and familiar with one another, make connections, share information on a personal level, and build our classroom community. During morning meeting, each student was greeted by name and often had the opportunity to share information about themselves to the whole group. Before our meeting ended, the group collectively reviewed the expectations that were drafted by the students on the first day of meeting each other. Students and teachers signed their name in agreement of the expectations, holding everyone accountable for their actions and words. This familiar routine of welcoming and accepting one another each morning helped set a comfortable, safe, and productive tone for the rest of the day.

img_4088After morning meeting, students broke off into four different groups (which were determined by reading performance data) to rotate among four different centers. Our centers included guided reading groups, phonics focus groups, writing workshop, and art. Through small group center rotations, students were able to receive more focused instruction to meet their academic needs.

At writing workshop, students used iPads and laptops to research information about the animal they had chosen to study from the Wildlife Park. Students wrote poems, riddles, and informational pieces about their animal’s habitat. Students used graphic organizers, wrote drafts in their science notebooks, revised and edited their work with support from their teachers, and all ended up having three pieces of writing published in our final, collaborative anthology of the animals we studied at Maine Wildlife Park.

img_4251When students went to the guided reading group center, they were able to receive direct reading instruction at their level while reading a variety of nonfiction texts. Students were supported by reviewing and practicing reading strategies, listening to each other read, and by writing facts about what they learned from their reading in their individual reading notebooks. Students also had the opportunity to use iPads as a technology resource to read or listen to stories and to take comprehension quizzes about the books they were reading right on their device. Using the guided reading model gave the students the opportunity to recall and reinforce skills learned throughout the school year. Our data showed that students had regressed from the end of the school year to the beginning of the summer program. Our work together helped students get back to where they had ended the school year.

img_3922During the phonics focus group, students participated in a variety of vocabulary and word work activities that related to the animal research they were doing for their writing. Students learned visual and oral cues to match all the vowel teams to bump their sounding out skills to the next level. Practice reviewing phonemic sounds and patterns influenced their reading decoding and performance. Students also read silly animal rhyming poems to recognize and read spelling patterns, as well as talk about their animals and what they were learning through their research.

During the visual arts center, students had the opportunity to be creative in a multitude of ways using a large variety of mediums. Students created works of art that related to their chosen animal and its habitat. Student-led inquiry and research provided a solid foundation for realistic and objective representation in their works of art. All students completed representational drawings, “painted-paper” collages, hand-built clay sculptures, and folded paper trioramas of their animal’s habitat. Many students also used digital cameras, iPads and other portable electronic devices to visually record their observations and experiences from their perspective.

img_3676We also were able to utilize our reading specialist during our center rotations as a resource for our most at-risk students. She was able to pull students for 1:1 reading to help them maintain their spring reading scores.

All students contributed research, writing and art work on a chosen animal at the Maine Wildlife Park that was published in their collaborative book Maine Animals–Their Stories. Learning extended beyond the school walls as students had the opportunity to take three field trips to Maine Wildlife Park and observe their animals firsthand. Students filled the role of field researchers at the park, receiving guided tours with volunteer park guides who answered students’ questions about their chosen animal. At the Park, students also photographed their animals in their habitats and took notes in their science journal. Through expeditionary primary research, students gained an authentic purpose to their research, writing and art.

img_4022The grant that was allocated to RSU 16 stated that 90% of our students would maintain their Fountas and Pinnell reading level at the end of the 2015-2016 school year. Students were able to meet this goal through the use of our STEAM model.

Jonathan will be on the STEAM panel at the Maine International Conference on the Arts, sponsored by the Maine Arts Commission on Friday, October 7, at the Bates Mill, Lewiston. The STEAM panel is one of 4 sessions in the education strand being held that day. There are 3 other arts strands along with other opportunities taking place that day and the pre MICA conference for arts educators on Thursday, October 6. To learn more and to register please CLICK HERE or contact me at argy.nestor@maine.gov.

2 comments

  1. That is awesome!
    Very innovative planning with super results to validate the efforts.
    Jonathan is a perceptive person and teacher. Hope these programs continue.
    Lois Griffin


  2. Thanks for your comment Lois! It’s been great to connect with Jonathan and learn about the great work going on at Poland Community School. The school district is fortunate to have him! ~Argy



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