If you are looking to change things up a bit in your classroom and deepen the learning experience for children and teachers, consider using STEAM projects. Note: If you are new to the STEAM teaching approach, you can read about it here and here.
At St. Mary Preschool, we provide a cross-contextual learning environment. Our curriculum company provides a monthly theme web, with weekly and daily investigations into related topics. The STEAM stations are among those daily investigations. Large blocks of time are set aside for children to explore the STEAM stations, make plans and carry them out. And, as a Christian school, we have added an “R” for Religion, so we actually use the STREAM approach in our school.
Currently, we are studying All About Weather. We kicked off the unit with a visit from our local meteorologist, Joe Charlevoix from Upnorthlive. The children had watched him on TV and on tablets prior to his visit and were poised with very intelligent, relevant questions such as, “What will the weather be like on Halloween?” and “What makes a tornado?”
When snow was our daily topic, the children who visited the Invitation to Create table, were able to investigate a photo of a real snowstorm, engage in a meaningful conversation with Mrs. Papes about storms, the colors in the photo and so on, then paint a snowstorm using a feather as painting tool.
Our book shelf was stocked with non-fiction books from the local library. In addition, our science and nature table featured bears, frozen in ice. Out Teacher’s Guide provides ideas for STEAM Stations (one for each day of the week) along with Big Questions. These questions guide children’s observations and encourages them to really think about their responses and the item they are exploring.
While the children explored and played with the frozen bears in ice, I observed how they played for a few minutes then the following Q&A took place:
Q: Do you notice any changes happening?
A: Yes, Collin answered, the ice was melting.
Q: Why do you think the ice is melting?
A: The sun melted it Mikey said. I added, but we aren’t outside. Then Hattie answered that the air in the room is hot.
Cameron exclaimed, “The ice is turning into a liquid!” And this is what science looks like in our classroom. Real hands-on learning, interactions with teachers and time to explore objects.