STEM Educators 1.6
1.6 - The interdisciplinary problem-based curriculum includes a focus on real-world applications.
Barbara Morgan Stem Academy's strength for Indicator ST1.6 lies within the ability to use our curriculum to make connections across disciplines through real life experiences in kindergarten through fifth grade. Using an interdisciplinary approach encourages our students to engage in critical thinking skills that transcend subject area. Students participate in a sixty-minute STEM class every fourth day. Our STEM teacher just received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. Here the students are exploring content area integrated with engineering, math, and science.
Along with academics, students develop competencies in collaboration and communication skills needed to be ready for college and career opportunities. Lessons are aligned to internationally accepted benchmarks and standards. Our school counselor employs curriculum with fifth graders spanning several weeks involving exposure to career choices. She initiates discussion through student surveys and other front loading activities. Students research topics and write throughout the curriculum. BMSA's curriculum consists of Idaho Standards with literacy in math, English language arts, science, and social studies. Teachers reflect on student engagement, connections with different subjects, and applying essential questions to drive instruction.
Problem-based Curriculum at Barbara Morgan STEM Academy
PBL Unit Plans
Our curriculum is infused with a web of inquiry-based projects that continually seek ways to create rigorous and relevant experiences for students. Planning purposeful PBLs starts with brainstorming the concept(s), where it can be found in the real world, related careers and potential social, political or economical issues. Grade level teams then create open ended and debatable essential questions that students will answer through real world, performance-based projects they share with others. Creating teacher learning maps allow teachers to integrate curriculum, content, instruction, and assessment. Student created learning maps helps students connect what they are learning across content areas. Connections to authentic experiences across the content standards are planned collaboratively in grade level teams with vertical skills progression in mind.
Coordination with the music teacher provides another layer of integration. She works with first through fourth grades creating musical programs enhancing science standards. The following are programs she rotates throughout the years.
- Nuts – Life Cycle of the Tree
- How Does your Garden Grow – Life Cycle of a Plant
- Swamped – Life Cycle of the Frog
- Flakes – States of Matter
- Squirm – Vertebrates and Invertebrates
- Properties of Matter
- Singing in the Rain forest – Animals and their Habitats
- Wild and Wacky Winter – Weather
- The Weather Show
- Science Rocks
- Santa Goes Green – Alternative Sources of Energy
- It’s Electrifying – Electricity and Magnetism
- Update Earth: Alternate Sources of Energy
- My Planet, Your Planet – Protecting the Earth
During our Engineering Night we integrated ELA material by providing iPads loaded with bridge books in a collection on Epic. Teachers employ purposeful planning to support ELA standards by supplanting text in a meaningful way. NewsELA, Readworks, Epic, and Razz Kids are used. Our 2nd grade classes create digital, interactive books for students to interact with the text in meaningful ways and record their reading fluency. ELA vertical alignment securely links standards, curriculum, instruction, and assessment.
Sample of 2nd Grade Digital Book
Daily Wonder Question
BMSA creates a culture of inquiry by providing opportunities for students to explore their natural curiosity. The Wonder Wall is in operation all year long. This wall is an open market for students to post questions they wonder about. Every day our principal chooses a question from the board to read during morning announcements. Any student is allowed to research and record their answer in written form. Once the student has cited evidence, he/she travels to the principal’s office to explain their answer. This routine makes the thinking visible for students by giving them a concrete way to engage in inquiry. Students have additional opportunities to ask and/or answer wonder questions on classroom Wonder Walls and in their interactive STEM notebooks.
Our math concepts are often integrated into our science journals. This includes written explanations that support ELA standards.
BMSA teachers work together to vertically align math areas and developed a progression of skills. These skills are specifically integrated into our PBL Unit Plans. Students are exposed to opportunities which allow them to see math in other content areas by offering open ended and hands-on activities related to the problem-based project theme.