The School of Engineering Arts (SEA) is a STEM magnet school located in Minneapolis. The school is K-5 and was established two years ago on an existing school site. Enrolment is through ballot and there is an extensive demand for places due to the STEM program and strong academic results.
Cara Rieckenburg is the Program Director and helped establish the school along with Principal Kim Hiel. We talked about the STEM journey, met with K-5 students and toured the school.
SEA is like a number of other schools I visited looking to integrate STEM teaching and learning into everyday curricula. Again, using literacy studies and novels as a way into the engineering design process was evident in the school. Texts by Gary Paulsen such as Hatchet and Julie of the Wolves and My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George were given as strong examples of appropriate texts.
Year 3 students were working on their 20% or Genius Hour projects when I visited and it was rewarding to see one of the girls using a circuit board and multi-meter to construct a circuit. Other students were building wind turbines, pulling apart remote control helicopters to make a drone and working on backdrops for animations. The nature of topics was diverse and students were self managing their time and progress while seeking assistance if required.
Year 5 students have 1:1 Chromebooks and talked about how much they enjoyed the learning opportunities provided. Coding and game design with Scratch, iMove trailers and other multi-media content were showcased by the students. Students take their Chromebooks home and often complete work after school hours for personal interest.
The school has made the best of turning its traditional building into a 21st century learning space including modular and mobile furniture, multiple projectors in the library media space and extensive science supplies and makerspace equipment. Students were collaborating in small groups around corridors and the library media room and sitting and working on the floor is encouraged.
Cara talked about the need for extensive teacher professional learning through regular mentoring along with 1:1 teacher sessions on term goals, software use and 21st century pedagogy.
Visiting SEA was a wonderful way to finish what has been a rewarding journey into current practises in STEM teaching and learning.
Thanks to Cara and Kim for hosting my visit.
PS – It was fun to walk through the school doors to staff singing to YMCA and the Principal dancing with students in the administration office. A warm and welcoming school! Thank you.