STEAM programming at Chippewa seeks to change how students experience learning. Rather than predominantly completing worksheets and packets geared toward memorization, our major learning outcomes focus on teaching kids to:
- ask questions
- understand with empathy
- generate, explore and test ideas
- solve complex problems
- design & create desirable products
For more specifics pertaining to what students will know or be able to do as a result of our STEAM programming, click to view a list of all our STEAM Learning Outcomes.
STEAM Philosophy & Design Thinking
Chippewa has adopted Design Thinking as our process for teaching creative problem solving. Students engage in the process of Design Thinking in all of our STEAM "Maker Courses" which include Integrated Science and Integrated Math I, Media Literacy 2.0, Art & Design, and Economics and Entrepreneurship in the 21st Century.
The Design Thinking process begins with gathering information, which is the reason our approach to STEAM has a strong literacy component. Chippewa learners frequently engage in an inquiry-based approach to research that extends well beyond simply accessing research databases. To understand a problem with empathy for those impacted by it, Chippewa students learn and practice interviewing and crowdsourcing. They conduct social experiments, and they present their findings and solutions to the same people that participated in their research.
Once students have gathered information such that they can define the problem with a sense of empathy for those impacted by it, they begin to ideate. As part of our Wonder Wednesday experience, for example, students are given a really bad idea and asked to generate a range of crazy and creative ideas to make that bad idea better. To do this, we teach a process for ideation called "Forness Thinking," which was created by Minneapolis based Ideas To Go, an organization that solves problems for fortune 500 companies.
Upon selecting one of a number of ideas they generated, students create a prototype solution or product for the explicit purpose of gathering feedback. They’re taught to use feedback they’ve gathered to improve their solution or product. In some cases, the feedback they received causes students to go back to the ideation phase and generate an entirely new approach to solving their problem.
Again, these skills, from researching to ideating to prototyping, testing and improving their product or solution, are learned and practiced throughout all three years of middle school. This is why we offer bi-weekly “Maker Monday” design challenges in sixth grade, which allow for kids to frequently practice prototyping and testing, along with close observation, collaboration, flexible thinking, and exploration. It is also why 7th graders engage in bi-weekly “Wonder Wednesday” Ideation sessions, focused again on teaching effective collaboration and flexible thinking, and why 8th graders in 2018-19 will begin experiencing “Free Inquiry Fridays,” which will give students time and freedom to deeply research and learn about topics for which they are most passionate.
Coding and Computational Thinking
Chippewa offers two, 18-week coding courses. Integrated Math I, taught in sixth grade, teaches algebraic and geometric concepts through computer programming. Lessons focus on concepts like order of operations, the Cartesian plane, function composition and definition, and solving word problems - all within the context of video game design. Integrated Math I also incorporates robotics, with a number of highly engaging challenges and activities that require students to design and redesign their robot as well as the code they're using to operate it.
Integrated math II, taught in 8th grade, is a self-paced course that introduces students to the Python language, as well as to physical computing through the use of Raspberry Pi and a number of add-on tools and applications like sense hats and Sonic Pi.
In between these two book-end coding courses, all math teachers are working to integrate coding and computational thinking into everyday learning. Teachers are specifically focusing on four key areas of computational thinking, which include decomposition, algorithmic thinking, abstraction and pattern identification. Through learning experiences in math that require students to break down a problem into smaller parts, identify and eliminate any unnecessary information so as to narrow their focus (abstraction), identify patterns that exist among smaller problems, and/or require students to generate their own set of rules that when applied correctly will solve the problem every time (algorithmic thinking), we are placing are greater emphasis on thinking and reasoning than we are on memorizing a step-by-step process for factoring numbers.
In time, we want to extend the integration of computational thinking to other courses. We envision having students breakdown historical events into smaller parts and seek to identify patterns of common occurrences, especially as it pertains to cause and effect. Or, have one group of students breakdown events within a short story into smaller parts, and then have another group of students read portions of that short story out of order, with the goal of identifying key information pertaining to rising action, climax and falling action, such that students can put the sequence of events back in the order in which the author intended.
iCREATE Learner Qualities
Chippewa's iCREATE learner qualities serve two important purposes.
First, iCREATE serves as a visible representation of what effective learners do to cause their success. Alongside content specific learner outcomes, we intentionally teach and recognize students for
- demonstrating effective collaboration,
- reflecting on what they've learned and who they are as a learner,
- developing strategies that eliminate distractions and help students to remain fully engaged when learning is difficult,
- advocating for their learning needs
- thinking flexibly and optimistically,
- exploring learning aligned to their interests and passions.
Secondly, iCREATE serves to help drive changes to how students experience learning. In order for kids to operate effectively in a group setting, for example, teachers have to provide ample opportunities for them to collaborate. To become a reflective learner, students need opportunities and a platform for sharing their thoughts on what they did as a learner to cause their success. Even the choice of adopting the acronym CREATE was intentional, in that we are truly working to shift the culture of learning from consumption to creation. This is why all students learn to design both 2D and 3D products in CorelDraw and AutoDesk Inventor, and why we are working to ensure students have have freedom to choose how they show what they’ve learned in any class. When given the freedom of choice, along with access to tools like laser cutters, blade cutters and 3D printers, students have shown they are far more creative at coming up with ways to demonstrate their learning than we are.
In short, iCREATE is our vehicle for developing self-efficacious, life long learners capable of experiencing success in any situation.