Teacher externship generates district-wide STEAM lesson plans

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It was full steam ahead for 33 elementary and middle school teachers as they spent a week of their summer break touring local industries in preparation to write the first-ever district-wide STEAM lesson plans.

STEAM is an educational concept that integrates the core subjects of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) with art (the “A” in STEM) to help prepare students for 21st century careers. Adding “art” to STEM addresses the four “C’s” necessary for success in the workforce: creativity, collaboration, cooperation, and communication. Art helps students learn to take thoughtful risks, engage in experiential learning, and embrace collaboration and creativity.

The inaugural STEAM Team met June 13-16, kicking off the week with tours of Panasonic, TDK, and Piedmont Fayette Hospital. They also got a behind-the-scenes look at the operations of the High Museum of Art at the Woodruff Arts Center. The tours allowed the teachers to gain first-hand knowledge of engineering and design processes that they would use later in the week to create the lesson plans.

The team spent the last two days of the externship working in groups developing STEAM lesson plans for grade levels kindergarten through seventh. The teachers created enough lesson plans so that a STEAM lesson can be included in each nine-week period throughout the school year.

The lessons created by the STEAM Team have been stored in a Google Drive that is accessible to teachers through the district’s science webpage and Blackboard, a learning management system. Teachers will be made aware of the lesson plans as they return to school in the next few weeks.

One team member, Laura Crews, a fourth-grade math and science teacher at Inman Elementary and a finalist in the 2016 Fayette County Teacher of the Year competition, praised the externship experience as a way for teachers to capitalize on resources in the community, and bring their ideas together to prepare students for success in the 21st century.

“It was a pleasure networking with our community and putting our fabulous ideas together to continue to expand our teaching practices, beliefs, and skills toward the future. It was a valuable opportunity to share ideas, gain new insight, and develop new productive ways to prepare our students for success,” said Crews.

The school district plans to offer similar STEAM externships each summer so all teachers will have an opportunity to participate on a STEAM team. More than 78 teachers applied to be part of the 2016 team.

Although the externship for this summer has come to an end, the work has not. Teachers will meet quarterly during the school year to discuss instruction, refine resources, and share practices.