Cape moves full STEAM ahead

Selected fifth-graders will engage in hands-on approach
September 22, 2014

A new program with a twist on the latest science and technology trend is available for accelerated fifth-grade learners in the Cape Henlopen School District.

STEAM, which adds art to the science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines originally emphasized through the STEM program, will be offered to top-learning fifth-graders at all Cape elementary schools.

Last year, Milton and Rehoboth elementaries piloted the program with great success, said Donna Kolakowski, supervisor of elementary education for the district.

“We expanded to all the schools after it went well at Milton and Rehoboth,” she said. The STEAM program is meant to inspire creativity, innovation, problem solving and critical and computational thinking above and beyond the curriculum, Kolakowski said.

The district received a $58,000 Accelerated Learner grant from the Delaware Department of Education to implement the program at all four elementary schools.

In all, she said, about 60 students will participate - about 10 to 15 percent of the top performing students in math and language chosen from each school. Students will meet during scheduled Response of Intervention time – a time normally set aside during the school day for students who need extra help in a subject.

For the first project, Kolakowski said, students will research a global problem that impacts their community. Students will use Geographical Information Systems and other technology to gather and analyze data related to the problem; then, they will use computer animation and Lego-Robotics kits to build 3D models and design prototypes that show solutions to the global problem, Kolakowski said.

Additionally, she said, University of Delaware researchers will help assist with GIS mapping, interpretation and analysis. And field trips will give students a broader range of experience. A trip to the College of Marine Studies will give students hands-on experience with aquatic education. Students also will take a trip to Cape Henlopen Nature Center for a geocaching project. They will use iPads to create mini documentaries of their experience, Kolakowski said.

“The grant provides an opportunity for deep instruction in the Next Generation Science Standards,” Kolakowski said. “The standards are a perfect match for a hands-on approach. The team building and scientific exploration will engage the students in higher order of thinking.”

Students will use a Museum of Science in Boston textbook, “Engineering is Elementary,” that includes units on ecosystems, landforms, air, weather and water and energy and machines.

“The program will expose students to a variety of learning experiences that will deepen their understanding and develop their abilities for career paths and life options,” Kolakowski said.