What is STEAM in the context of our school?
The underlying principles and practices of our STEAM program are interdisciplinary, combining the five pillars of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Music and Movement. Because the math curriculum for the preschool/kindergarten years is taught using the wonderful interactive Montessori materials in Rm 11, and is an intrinsic part of our Science, Technology and Engineering lessons, we have substituted Music and Movement for Math in the STEAM room. Key to the success of our program is the integration of the four C’s identified as key components in 21st century education: creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication.
As with the Montessori curriculum, the STEAM program incorporates inquiry-based learning and an adaptable framework to suit student’s interests and needs. For example, the study of NASA’s mission to Mars evolved into a four-month study of space and our solar system. By integrating language arts, math, science, technology, art, music, and drama we pivot from one area of interest to another as the students learn, grow, and discover. Through these strategies we foster a love of learning, perhaps the best gift we can give your child.
The five pillars of STEAM
S is for Science: Children are natural scientists. They try to figure out how the world works by engaging in scientific exploration: observation, forming questions, making predictions, conducting experiments, and discussing the results with the rest of the class. Our science experiments have seasonal themes (creating and observing the three states of matter as we make apple sauce in the autumn) or get tied into units of study (launching rockets to observe Newton’s Laws of Motion as we study space). Once the children are taught how to conduct the science experiments and are given opportunities to perform them in the STEAM room, the experiments are transferred to the Montessori classroom where they are available as shelf work for several more weeks. This gives the children ample opportunity to try, and re-try, experiments, observing their results in different environments.
T is for Technology: In our STEAM program, “T” stands for any type of human-made technology such as simple machines like pulleys, wheels, wedges, and ramps. For our younger students, learning which materials are the most appropriate for use in their project is a great place to start: colored pencils vs markers, liquid glue, tacky glue or hot glue, paper vs cardboard? Problem solving these choices supports children’s cognitive development; as they play with these tools, they observe and learn from their successes and failures. Our classrooms have access to iPads for research, photos to broaden understanding and videos to explore ideas. We also love our classroom robot, Cubetto, who teaches the children the basics of computer coding.
E is for Engineering: At SMS, engineering utilizes science, math, and technology to solve problems, and uses a variety of materials to build structures and simple machines, helping the children to understand how and why things work. Children build on knowledge gained from exploring the Pink Tower, Brown Stairs and geometric shapes in the Montessori classroom and expand this knowledge by building with the wide variety of materials in our Creation Station. When children construct a sculpture out of cardboard shapes they create, they learn about balance, force and the effects of gravity to help them solve structural problems. When they cap a rocket ship with a large square bottom pyramid inspired by their Montessori sensorial work, they’re engineering.
A is for Art: Art is sensory exploration. Children can feel paint on their fingers and observe colors change as combinations are mixed. Drawing and painting allow them to express what they know and feel, even before they can read or write. A variety of art materials are always available to students in both classrooms throughout the year. In the STEAM program, the children will also learn how to create pictures using directed line drawing and will learn to care for their materials and workspaces. They will experiment with different types of brushes, and paint, explore different art media and basic art techniques such as line, form, texture, values and perspective. These skills are reinforced when the children paint to create maps and globes in their study of world geography and draw and color their own pictures in the Montessori classroom. Art crosses the Montessori/STEAM curriculum to enhance learning and provide opportunities for the children to express themselves and demonstrate their understanding of lessons taught.
M is for Music and Movement: Music is linked to STEAM through pattern recognition and numeration. Following and recreating musical notes and beats, creating and playing simple instruments such as drums, shakers, and water xylophones, and learning new and interactive songs all stimulate creativity and cognitive development. Singing and dancing are an integral part of our Montessori/STEAM program, and the lessons learned here are often integrated into our Friday Theater. Here children collaborate to write original plays which they perform in costume from our extensive costume collection, often using props they make themselves. Students recreate the plays they write, ad lib lines to keep the story flowing, project their voices so everyone can hear and gain confidence speaking to an audience. It’s wonderful to see some of our most timid students blossom on the stage.
If you have any further questions about our program, please contact our Director, Mrs. Janet Villella.