Steve Bergen, Mayfield Senior School, Pasadena, CaHoly Child Academy
Drexel Hill, PA

STEAM Learning in Action
By Erica Zwilling

Facilitator of the Innovation Lab,
It has been just more than a year since our Innovation Lab opened, yet the Lab is already well used and integrated into the school. Originally, the Lab was intended to serve our pre-kindergarten to grade eight students but this year our Nursery students are also coming to the Lab for STEAM challenges including coding, mechanics and robotics. This seemed very natural as the philosophies of the Innovation Lab and our Montessori nursery and pre-kindergarten classrooms pair well. They are both based on individualized learning through exploration of material that challenges them to do their best work. We have even added “techy” Montessori type work mats to the Innovation Lab to allow students to gather their own supplies and define their workspace. However, unlike Montessori, the students work with partners or in small groups to develop their collaboration and communication skills.

Teachers from our lower school and middle school also have found that the Lab complements their classes. They have used the Lab’s resources to expand and innovate their classroom lessons. For example, last year the third-grade students explored India in their social studies class and then created a tourism commercial in the Lab using the green screen, sound engineering software and other resources. The Lab also is being used for after-school and lunchtime programming, and even birthday parties.

With our commitment to our students even after graduation, this summer we opened the Lab as a resource to our alumni to explore new technologies. Alumni can use the lab to create ePortfolios of their work for college applications or job interviews. High school athletes can use the video-editing tools to create professional looking highlight reels of their skills for college recruiting coaches. Alumni also can use the Lab’s resources to be lifelong learners and explore interests such as photography, website design or animated Claymation video production.

With all the activity in the Lab, the students are still challenged with new projects each week. These projects are designed to develop the 21st-century skills of critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, communication, time management and technology use. Each skill is introduced to the youngest of students at an age-appropriate level. For example, younger students practice communicating their problem-solving process through informal discussion with partners and the class. As students’ writing abilities increase, more emphasis is placed on students being able to describe their thinking and problem-solving strategies in their journals and presentations. These skills and experiences will help prepare them for high school and the workforce of tomorrow.