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For several years now, Eastern Christian has provided our high school students with the option of applying to be part of a robust STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) program. The STEAM program at our High School aims to prepare our oldest students with opportunities to use their God-given curiosity to explore, investigate, problem solve, and create something new in areas of particular interest to them.
This year, Eastern Christian decided to expand our STEAM initiative so that our younger students (Kindergarten-3rd grade) have similar opportunities to be inquisitive in the areas of science, technology, engineering, art, and math. Meredith Kohlbrenner, STEAM teacher at the elementary school, says, “ECES recognizes the importance of hands-on learning, specifically through the design process. Our students have shown high engagement and excitement when exposed to Maker activities in the past, and the school wanted to formalize this into a regular offering for all students.” As a result, students in our elementary school now look forward to their class’ turn in the “Makerspace.”
Our Media Center has been revamped to provide more space and equipment for students to explore and be creative. Based on her research of best practices for teaching elementary aged learners STEAM topics, Meredith structures the class so that the students have fun while learning about topics relevant to our tech-savvy society, such as robotics, engineering, coding, and more. She says, “My goal for the Makerspace is for the students to gain exposure to STEAM disciplines, and to freely build and design while doing so. Practically, this means that when they come into the Makerspace, I introduce them to an engineering or programming concept at their developmental level, and then let them experiment with various materials to apply that learning.”
When you enter Makerspace during class time, you can feel the excitement in the air. Students are engaged with the materials, working cooperatively together to solve challenges, and so proud of what they create! Every challenge prompts students to be hands-on as they build and design, which furthers their understanding of the content they are learning about. It is one thing to listen or read about how a light bulb circuit must form a circular electrical current, but so much more interesting and exciting to be given the proper tools to experiment and discover how to power the light bulb so that it glows! It is so fun to see students’ faces light up when the light bulb does, and as they make connections and are successful in completing their challenges!
If you ask students about Makerspace, some will say, “It’s so fun,” others will claim it’s their favorite class, and others will ask, “When is our class coming to the Makerspace next?” As our elementary students continue to have fun in Makerspace, they are also becoming better prepared to be the engineers, programmers, and designers of the future.