What a science classroom can look like

I have been asked before to share some of my experiences from working at Barrie Prep in Silver Spring, Maryland. As I have mentioned before I taught for four years there, prior to returning to Rochester to attend Warner. My time at Barrie exposed me to many of the more progressive and reform based science practices that I have been learning the theory behind; in particular constructivist education practices. My first year at Barrie we began to integrate Project Based Learning using the Buck Institute for Education model for PBL, which was really perfect timing for me as a first time teacher. I was exposed fundamentally to practices that integrate the co-construction of knowledge and meaning, interdisciplinary student and faculty work, backwards design, and the idea that school extends beyond the walls of the classroom, and even beyond the boundaries of our campus. I wanted to share with you what this can look like in a science classroom.

This is some of the 6th grade student work that was presented at our first annual Barrie STEAM Fair. These poster were the result of an integrated Humanities (ELA/Social Studies combined) and Science unit which incorporated the Industrialization unit and focuses on the process of design, how inventions increase efficiency of processes, and the societal and environmental impacts of historic inventions. The major science integration was through the engineering and design process. After learning about historical inventions as models, students embarked on their own design process. With group and individual components, students brainstormed every-day problems/needs and inventive solutions. The class voted on a few to pursue to develop and 3D print. Students learned to use Tinkercad 3D drawing software, the copyright and patent processes, and how to effectively describe and pitch their ideas orally and in writing. Finally they evaluated what the real-life contemporary impacts of their inventions could be. Below are some examples to the work that students submitted to the STEAM Fair. Click on the image to see a larger version.

This unit was a lot of fun for everyone, students and faculty included but it also took a great deal of time. Students were able to work through the engineering cycle and the design process, while utilizing new and cutting edge technology. It was time well spent, but we did not have the pressure of standardized testing approaching or curriculum standards that had to be met. These students became scientists and engineers, which I think was far more valuable.

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