Excerpt from the STEAM program course catalogue: “9th grade year | Project Development: Semester 2: Students work with their mentors to begin the STEAM Research Project. This includes generating project ideas, developing a research design, doing a preliminary literature search, and writing a proposal… Students are required to log into their journal a minimum of three an done half hours each week and to meet regularly with their mentor. Students must submit a written proposal for their project (3-5 pages) to their mentor by the last week in May.
“When you propose,” Dr. Eshuis says, “You put your best foot forward. Because you really want her to say yes!”
“Your STEAM proposal is a bit like that. It is where you present your exciting idea in such a way that others get on board.”
I sit in the back of the classroom, watching my STEAM students as they listen to and interact with our guest speaker (who is also my husband). He writes many proposals as part of his work and is therefore much more qualified than I am to instruct my students about proposal writing.
“What do you think when you hear the word ‘proposal’?”
“A lot of work”, says one of my students. “I worry that I’ll end up doing it wrong,” adds another. “There’s this ideal picture in your mind, but when you write it down it turns out the ideal does not exist”.
“That’s all part of the process,” Dr. Eshuis responds. “But never forget that first and foremost there is your exciting idea. And you’ll develop it in such a way that others become excited too.”
Proposal writing. Project development. It’s probably the most challenging part of the STEAM program and EC students have to tackle this challenge when they are only just starting in the program. And, I’m happy to report, they are doing great!
In the beginning of the semester all stages of the process were present in a given class period. There was one student who knew what she wanted to do pretty much from day 1 of the STEAM program. There were others who repeatedly sighed to me: “How do you even begin to develop an idea.” We had the whiteboard filled with word webs as students started sharing the beginning of their ideas with each other. They solicited feedback from classmates and added that to their word webs. Imagine how much courage it takes to share an idea that you have not even fully developed yet. And out of the word webs hypotheses are now being crafted and design plans are slowly taking shape.
There’s disappointment when someone finds out that it looks like his exact idea has already been tested. There is excitement when someone is finding a place for her idea amidst all the published research. There’s even more excitement when a student gets the green light to go ahead with his or her project.
I am certainly excited about what the students are developing. I’m not always so sure if they realize it yet. Every time after I’ve sat down with a student, and I see their progress, I feel like dancing through the classroom. I can barely contain my excitement!
Here are some teasers for you:
- A social platform for teens with mental health challenges as a safe place where then can share experiences
- How do different types of music affect study and exercise habits? Can we increase the likelihood of an activity by selectively playing music? Does music make the activity more efficient?
- Which types of ankle support do different basketball shoes offer in various aspects of the play? Can ankle injuries be prevented if you use the right kind of shoe?
- A robot that flies like a bird. Because bird wings are so much better than airplane wings.
Kudos to all our STEAM students!