The newly-created STEAM course in third grade features an interdisciplinary curriculum, allowing students to delve deeper into math and science while fostering critical, real-world skill development. We sat down with STEAM teacher Kyle Anderson to learn more about the course and what students can look forward to throughout the year.
What are your goals for third grade STEAM?
The goal of the course is to develop critical thinking and learn to question the world around them. And at the same time, to help them see the vast variety of what math, science and technology can be, and the interplay between all of these subjects.
What are some of the projects and activities that you've done so far?
Kids have been learning about the life cycle of plants by gardening on the Green Roof. They’ve watched seeds germinate, and learned to tell the difference between a weed and a plant. They also did some harvesting and held their own third-grade farmers market.
In math, we've been doing a lot of early multiplication work. We've made skip counting and multiples books, and looked at the relationship and patterns between numbers to further develop a number sense as it relates to multiplication.
Why is hands-on learning important for this age group?
[Hands-on activities] deepen the learning. It's great to know your multiplication facts, but if you don't understand the bigger concept of why you're doing it, or can't explain what you mean, then you don't really understand what multiplication is. I always tell the kids that so much of math and science is seeing and noticing patterns and the relationships between things … they're starting to see that with the number work that we're doing.
How does this play out with science? Why does having an experience like gardening on the Green Roof lead to deeper understanding?
Because they start to use the scientific method organically. They’re questioning what things are, making hypotheses about what will happen, drawing observational drawings of the things that are growing, and labeling the parts of the plant. It's tapping into their innate curiosity, and by the end of the year, I can define [these terms] for them: when guessed what was going to happen, it’s called a hypothesis; the changes you noticed were you gathering data. Having the students practice [the scientific method] and then naming what it is when they've done it allows it to become second nature for them.
What other projects or units can students look forward to this year?
During our study of multiplication, we’re going to start looking at the concept of area. We’re also going to be thinking about architecture and engineering. Kids will be working in teams to map an area of the second floor and transfer that to a 3D Lego map.