It's Full STEAM Ahead at Ellenville Middle School

It's Full STEAM Ahead at Ellenville Middle School
Posted on 05/22/2017

Allan Arias likes to build things, things like rockets and skateboard parks and complex mazes, so seventh grade has been a good year for the innovative student. Soon, he’ll be working on a tetrahedron kite, the spring project in Ms. Lainie Pfeffer-Burns’ new Grade 7 STEAM class at Ellenville Middle School.

“This class is my favorite,” said Allan. “We’re always doing stuff. It’s not like a regular class.”

Ellenville Middle School added the STEAM class to every Grade 7 students’ schedule this year as part of the District’s ongoing technology initiative. STEAM – which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Math – brings those five disciplines together, challenging students to utilize a range of skills.

“STEAM is a project-based curriculum that requires the students to find a creative solution to a problem that’s been posed to them,” said Interim Middle School Principal Genna Suraci. “There’s a design process, trial and error, and a team approach.” The assignment may be to design a contraption that will protect a raw egg from a high fall; build and launch a rocket using specific materials, or construct a roller-coaster style marble run.

Curiosity, innovation, and collaboration are vital to the process, Ms. Pfeffer-Burns said, and students often work in pairs and teams, pitching ideas off one another, brainstorming, and cooperating, all the while creating an experience that mirrors many work environments. She added that STEAM introduces students’ to a host of careers - from computer programmer to engineer to environmental scientist – and underscores the idea that such careers are also creative.

“I like arts and crafts, and that’s why I really like this class,” said Sophia Rosado, who designed a successful Marble Run. Sophia used her knowledge of velocity, speed, motion, geometry, and materials for the project. “It was hard,” she said. “At first the marble kept jumping off the track, but now it works.”

Also this year the Middle School put Chromebooks – compact cloud-based laptops – into the hands of all students, as well as Grade 5 students in the Elementary School. The laptops allow students to create and store work, collaborate, and access the Internet.  The devices stay at school, but students can access their work via Google OS on other devices, such as smartphones or their home computers.

Chromebooks have gained popularity among teachers and administrators because of their durability, long battery life, and resistance to viruses. Because they provide storage on the cloud, documents and content can be shared, and teachers can view and communicate directly with students as they work. Students can write, create graphics, research, and maintain a digital portfolio of their work.

The Chromebook program began last school year with one assigned to each Grade 6 student. Next year the program will expand to include Grades 9, 3, and 4.

Students in STEAM class

A student shows off his Crome Book

Students work on Crome books