A series of grants awarded to the Academy by The Robert F. Schumann Foundation have allowed the Academy to further embrace and commit to the integration of science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) within the school’s curriculum and co-curricular programs. The STEAM concept incorporates project-based and interdisciplinary approaches to learning, encouraging students to use non-linear skills and approaches to problem solving and collaboration.
Faculty member Marcus Soule who has been one of several faculty members leading opportunities for school-wide engagement in STEAM related activities says of the initiative, “Thirty years ago these hands on skills were taught in shop-class. With that gone from many high schools, this is the next iteration and a good way to get students working with their hands. It’s not just a teacher talking at them. They are experiencing the process physically. It’s a combination of hand and intellect.”
The grants, a gift to With True Courage, The Campaign for Governor’s, were awarded to fund the renovation of an unused storage area into a new makerspace and to fund the construction of a small greenhouse on the east end of campus. The first grant, awarded in June 2017, funded the renovation and provided additional supplies and tools necessary for engineering classes and for the Academy’s robotics team. The classroom, completed this fall, provides a much needed central location to house the Academy’s 3D printers, laser cutters, and other engineering tools.
Initial construction of the greenhouse was largely completed by Marcus Soule and students who participated in the project as part of their afternoon program last winter. Almost complete, the greenhouse will soon provide another opportunity to incorporate the STEAM concept into the classroom by including the environmental science and biology classes. The next phase of the greenhouse project will include the installation of running water, electricity, and an Ethernet switch to allow for the collection and communication of data.
Engineering and science classes spent the first semester on programming microcontrollers and will move on to design-based projects in the second semester. Inherent in this process is that students will fail and therefore engage in an iterative process to solve problems. Doing so directly incorporates several of the Academy’s 7 Essential Skills: critical thinking and problem-solving; effective collaboration to achieve common goals; communication in written, oral digital and graphic formats; and adaptation to new situations and information. Students also will develop a project portfolio to documents their efforts which they can then use for college applications or to gain internships.