TAF has started the process of spreading our academic model (which we call STEMbyTAF) to other public schools in our area. The first major effort is a partnership with Mount View Elementary School in the Highline School District. We are helping them transforms their school to a STEM school starting with 5th and 6th grade, then spreading throughout the school over the next three to four years.
For the first year we’re focusing on getting the teachers in position to use project based learning (PBL) to deliver the content. Of course we’re starting slow because this requires a complete change for teachers from the traditional stand and deliver model. This year we structured a 90 PBL block to get students and teachers used to the idea. The students will have two exhibitions this year and work their way up to four.
The first exhibition was labeled as a science fair. The fifth grade students showed their knowledge of force and motion. The sixth grade students solved a school community problem–the overwhelming amount of goose poop on their play field.
The students are ramping up their knowledge of force and motion. They are partnering with a school in Detroit on Project Hope which helps a group of farmers in Zambia. The challenge is they use two wheel tractors and the students wanted to see how much better their farming experience would be with a three wheel tractor. Watch as teacher Jamie Ewing explains.
Sixth Grade Summary
The students are ramping up their knowledge of ecosystems and decided to solve a real problem in their school community ecosystem–dangerous amounts of goose scat on their soccer field. They had to research the types of bacteria contained in the scat, get a since of the amount and come up with a viable solution that would not interrupt their class time, not harm the geese and allow them to use the field more. Watch as teacher explains Evonne Kusera explains.
The students did a great job for their first exhibition. The expectation was high for them to present their findings and educate the exhibition visitors about their project. We asked visitors to ask tough and important questions as well. Overall students certainly knew their topics, but over the next semester they will have to learn to channel their curiosity and dig a little deeper into their topic and expand their knowledge beyond the scope of the assignment.
The teachers learned quite a bit about their students’ abilities and what happens when you get out of their way and let them be in charge of their own education. There is still more work to do in this regard, so the next semester will be focused on helping the teachers create an inquiry environment without trying to control it.