Building Community and Relationships with Elementary STEAM
I had the opportunity to work with a team to open the first STEAM Elementary school in Missouri. Throughout this period of teaching 6th grade, we have been able to work with hundreds of students, creating critical thinkers and problem solvers, while inspiring a love of STEAM. Our school's mission is to "Prepare STEAMazing critical thinkers for life!" We tackle big things at JTSD. Our students farm with chickens and a greenhouse/garden beds to run a Farmers Market, saltwater reef tanks, freshwater tanks, engineer in our FABLAB and do other incredible things that send them off ready to take on the world.
We have had the opportunity to share our story numerous times at the local, regional, and national level through participation in local organizations and NSTA. I have presented in Colorado, Florida, Maryland, Colorado and elsewhere creating strong connections about what can be accomplished when we focus on STEAM with elementary students. I also completed my specialist degree focused on outcomes with our students demonstrated a beginning correlation between attendance at JTSD and their pursuit of STEM fields.
At JTSD, we also run a professional development firm in-house called STEAMU. In five years, we have been able to train over 1000 teachers working with different districts on how to implement STEAM in their district. Through this programming, we have closed our building twice to take our staff to national conferences. Our learning and agency sets our building apart by spreading our love for STEM with others. This has led to my promotion to district science coordinator where I work with our teachers to spread our science curriculum throughout our district.
Most recently, I have been working at the state level through various opportunities to guide our state curriculum work. I am participating in whatever is necessary to help enact change to better our outcomes for students. I also adjunct at Evangel University teaching science methods and leading the science practicum. Working to spread my love for STEAM has been fulfilling to me and is creating ripple effects that will spread throughout careers impacting an exponential number of students.
This is honestly just a surface level account of the work I have been able to do with our fantastic team. We are creating opportunity for students to truly change the world while bettering our educators and spreading the word. I would love to share our story more if given the opportunity.
We had a lot to share, which made it really difficult to share! We decided to focus on how our strong roots with each other and other stakeholder have allowed us to grow together. We would argue that there is not one specific kit, set of dispositions, or other magic formula that will generate success. Instead, we encourage all those who watch to take a risk and do it with a friend! We can achieve so much when we are learning together and making things great for students!
Collaboration and facilitating critical thinking will lead to great educational discoveries! Magic formulas don’t work but passionate teachers do. Thanks for sharing.
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Huffman High School: Empowering STEM Educational Leaders
Candyce A. Curry
Ryan, you have some great footage of students DOING as they learn. Additionally, the narrative really is inspiring to educators talking about engaging students and building on what you had in your educational experience. You have such a wonderful program that is clearly working and influencing educators and students around the country.
Keep up the great work!
In reply to So awesome! by Doug Hodum
Thank you! We had so many…
Thank you! We had so many ideas we wanted to showcase, but in the end, we really zeroes in on passion and risk-taking to help students learn. I'm glad you enjoyed seeing them. Our students do so much in our school to really emphasize learning. A few years back, they lobbied to change a city ordinance to house a flock of 20 chickens at school Now, we're having to tackle a PBL with our chickens because they are so unprofitable. I hope that what really reaonated was a group of folks doing the right things for kids with STEM at the center. Thanks for watching!
So great to see you all…
So great to see you all reflecting on this great program for these younger learners! Also, your collaborative approach clearly makes it stronger, more real and fun for all!
In reply to So great to see you all… by Kathryn Hobbs
We talk so often that when…
We talk so often that when we tackle a BIG problem together, it allows our team to bond in a way that you can't engineer. We've had that opportunity through our NGSS implementation, strategic planning, and many other chances. I'm glad you also see the value of us taking this work to our young learners. We have to reach them early if we want them engaged in this type of thinking for their life.
Your team's passion and…
Your team's passion and caring nature come through loud and clear in this video! What is inspiring is the reflection that commitment to try new things and to keep learning as an educator pays off in the classroom. Thanks for sharing!
In reply to Your team's passion and… by Katheryn Kennedy
I'm glad you can see our…
I'm glad you can see our passion! It is my strongest belief that if we want to see results in our students, we have to take risks ourselves. As the instructional coach, I just try to get them what they need when they need it, and it has taken us so far!
Make school real. Love that!
Make school real. Love that!
In reply to Make school real. Love that! by GLORIA KREISCHER GAJEWICZ
I always ask folks what they…
I always ask folks what they remember about school, and no one EVER answers that they loved a worksheet, hahaha. We want to create a building that showcases the world for students and allows them to carve out a unique spot that is just for them.
Thank you for sharing! Your video demonstrated strong teamwork to educate the students. This definitely leads to more success. Good job! :) Diana
Collaboration and Growth
I loved seeing all the collaboration between educators and students. Your message of teacher leaders needing to be willing to always learn and grow is so important.
Thank you for sharing.
Sounds like you are doing…
Sounds like you are doing amazing things. Love, "make school real!"
Make STEAM Real! Love it. I…
Make STEAM Real! Love it. I enjoyed the aspect of building the pillars of relationships in order to build a successful program. Not only is your "buy in" for all stakeholders evident but looking at the return on investment for sustainability is imperative. Problem solvers versus problem identifiers in the long run. Nicely done and I would love to come visit.
In reply to Make STEAM Real! Love it. I… by Douglas Baltz
We always joke that we're…
We always joke that we're building our own farm team through our year-long student teaching internships. They have been the best way to ensure our teachers are learning exactly what we believe students need.
The TEAM spirit really…
The TEAM spirit really shines through in this, and the way you model collaboration is inspirational-- exactly what we are trying to accomplish in our little school. I love the way you foster growth for your student teachers, building in longevity to their own learning. STEM really is everywhere. Good to read about your chicken issues, too. That is something we have talked about doing.
In reply to The TEAM spirit really… by Rebecca Cummings
Yes! We do our best to build…
Yes! We do our best to build opportunities for us to tackle big problems together. We're in a big district, but overall, our school is fairly small as well. All of that has made us feel so connected.
I'd love to chat about chickens and our gardens! They have been such effective tools at spreading our science throughout the curriculum.
I really like this collaborative real-world approach. The innovation and team problem-solving approach is exciting.
Don't be a spectator
I also agree and have told my students before -- be an active participant in science, not a spectator! Keep up the great work with making school real!
STEAM U- Please tell me more!!
While I appreciated your video, I really, really want to know more about your STEAM U for educators in your district. We too have an "in house" PD process for our technology pathway. Though it started two years ago, last year, it really started growing. However, we are always looking for other effective ways to grow it. I would love to hear more!
In reply to STEAM U- Please tell me more!! by Jodi Zeis
I'd love to chat about…
I'd love to chat about STEAMU! After becoming a STEAM school, we were giving numerous tours each year and afterwards we always found ourselves asking "What comes next?" In our strategic planning, we decided that we'd attempt to create some professional development opportunities for tour participants and by charging for the services we could boost our PD funds, as well. Throughout the last 5 years, we've worked with entire districts, individual schools, and small groups talking about STEAM and PBL. We follow a model where the PD is tailored specifically to what the teams request and includes opportunities to see instruction with students. All of the PD is also led by our teachers, so our teachers are growing in their own skills as they have to present on it. With those funds, we have been able to shut down our school and have our entire staff attend a nearby NSTA conference and 17 of us went to Orlando last June.