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Integrating STEAM in the Classroom

  • Academics
Chris Lazartic

 

One of the ways we’re transforming education at Aspen Academy is how we integrate STEAM into daily lessons for students, and consistently seek out new ways to integrate innovation into our classes. Here are some of the ways we’re currently exploring new technologies with students.

Virtual Reality: Two months ago, we purchased four VR headsets (Oculus Quest) to incorporate into the STEAM Lab and potentially the Middle School. There are a number of ways we can leverage these headsets for learning and exploring:

  • YouTube VR literally opens up a world of integration for us. Today during lunch, I sky-dived with the world's best sky-diving team and walked around the Berlin wall. Additionally, if we were to purchase a VR camera, our students could record and share their own VR videos. (Thank you to Rick Barrett for informing me of this.)

  • Tilt Brush allows students to paint and sculpt in a 3D world and move around the world to view their creations from different viewpoints. Science students could draw a model that illustrates what causes Earth's seasons; Math students could graph and display data; Language Arts students could draw a scene from a creative story they are working on; Social Studies students could model significant battles or create and label geographic areas. 

  • National Geographic Explorer allows students to kayak in the Arctic and ice climb, among other things. They are able to take pictures with their camera as they move around and explore the different landscapes.

  • TRIBE DJ School allows students to manipulate a full DJ deck and mix/make music. It allows for import of music as well.

  • Ocean Rift enables students to explore an underwater environment and learn more about the organisms that live there. The app allows students to choose from about eight experiences that feature different marine life.

  • Gadgeteer is a Rube-Goldberg inspired experience that challenges students to construct a chain-reaction machine to push a button. Many levels and difficulties are available.

  • Job Simulator is set in the future, where human jobs have been taken over by robots. Students can act as a gourmet chef, auto mechanic, office worker or convenience clerk and serve customers. Although this experience has potential, it is more of a game/entertainment experience.

  • Mission ISS transports students to the International Space Station, where they have to complete a series of tasks in zero-gravity.

  • Apollo 11 allows students to learn about the Apollo 11 mission to the moon, then simulates the moon and space environments so they can explore the terrain themselves.

  • Anne Frank House VR Experience allows students first to watch a Middle School-appropriate video about WW2 and Anne Frank, then they can walk around the house where Anne Frank hid for two years.

  • Adam Savage's TESTED - Adam Savage, one of the stars of Mythbusters, hosts a series of STEAM-related videos. There are about eight 15-20 minute videos for students to watch. 

Coding: Our students have a variety of experience with coding due to the internal of external classes they are taking. Some students are capable of creating complex lines of code to complete in-depth tasks, while others may be familiar with the basics. Consider using Scratch.mit.edu as a communication tool for your students. Scratch can be challenging for even the most experienced coders, even though they don't want to admit it. Language Arts students could make Shakespearean animations or have cartoons debate each other; Science students could model earth or biologic processes, Math students can teach geometry lessons, Artists can code bots to draw shapes on their own; Dancers can choreograph a dance routine; Spanish speakers can create animated stories that use their new favorite language. Here is a more detailed guide to Scratch Integration in grades 3-12

Artificial Intelligence: Google's dictionary defines A.I. as "The theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence" The increased use of AI in recent history raises many thought-provoking ideas and ethical issues. All students in my Innovation classes this year, (most students in grades 5-8), will experience a two-week seminar on A.I. You can learn much more about this seminar here.

Constructing / Maker Spaces: The Middle School STEAM Lab and Tinkering Studio are available for student and teacher use throughout the year. The STEAM Lab works nicely for whole classes, while the Tinkering Studio is great for groups of 12 or less. The 12 tables in the STEAM Lab are all equipped with an electrical outlet and large, high-speed computer to access internet and applications. The Tinkering Studio has power saws, and is a great place to use if you want to construct with paint, glue or saw dust. Teachers can also bring supplies to their classrooms and work there with the students -- something Mrs. Mullen demonstrated with her students last year -- creating suspension bridges that formed parabolas.

These tools are new and exciting ways we can support students with the ever-changing nature of technology they’ll experience both in the classroom and in life outside our school.

 


About the Author:
Chris Lazartic is Director Middle School STEAM Coach, Student Leadership and Entrepreneurship Coach at Aspen Academy.

Chris moved from Delaware to teach at Aspen Academy in 2010. He has a Master's Degree in Educational Leadership (University of Denver) and a Bachelor's degree in Earth Science Education, as well as his principal licensure. Chris loves that Aspen is a place that continues to inspire growth on both a personal and professional level. Outside of work, Chris can be found hiking, camping, disc golfing, skiing and traveling. Chris lives in Conifer, Colorado, with his wife, Elyse, their two dogs and horse.

For more about STEAM at Aspen Academy, click here.