After some preliminary research I have found 3 main aspects of STEAM that I would like to focus on for my inquiry project.
Should STEAM be primarily teacher directed or student directed?
What are helpful classroom management strategies to assure a STEAM project is a success?
How can STEAM projects be assessed?
This blog post will focus on number 1 ‘should STEAM be primarily teacher directed or student directed’. Upon further research I realised there is no one clear answer to this question. STEAM can be structured on a spectrum, with teacher directed on one end and student directed on the other. How you structure these projects may be dependent on many things, perhaps you are working with a high energy class that needs a bit more structure, or perhaps you want to give students as little guidance as possible to see what they can come up with independently.
Below is an article about student led STEM (comparable to STEAM).
My sponsor teacher last year was really into incorporating mindfulness into her classroom. Whether it was just playing peaceful music quietly in the background while the students did their work, or sitting on the carpet taking mindful breaths and listening to a chime before starting a new activity. Students seemed to really grasp the idea and I believe that even if they were just doing it to impress the teacher, it obviously was having an effect on their well-being. I think that mindfulness in a classroom is most helpful with anxiety or disruptive behaviour.
Letting the students have extra time to wind down from one activity and transitioning into another by sitting peacefully and focusing on their breaths, gives them that time to think about how they may need to recharge or how they may better themselves for the next activity.
For my first blog post I thought I would define STEAM and some of the key features associated with it. STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics. This is similar to STEM, the only difference being the addition of art. STEAM projects consist of materials and objects that can be manipulated to create a product. This product is usually a result of a leading question or task given from the instructor. This question/task is meant to be open-ended in order for students to stretch their creativity and reach their own conclusions.
To show you what I am learning about Genius Hour I have broken it down into 4 steps:
Step 1: INSPIRE STAGE. What is Genius Hour/ How can you start implementing it?
Step 2: THE PITCH–> Driving Question
Step 3: RESEARCH/CREATE
Step 4: ASSESSMENT
What is Genius Hour?
Genius hour is a process of inquiry where students chose a driving question based on their own wonder and passions. It stems from Googles model of 20% time, which allows their employees to work on their own projects 20% of their work day. In the classroom, typically it can take the form of 20% of the school day or week where students work on researching and creating a product of learning. Ultimately, it is about the process and the deep learning than about the “final product.” The worry with genius hour is how do you “mark” it and are you covering content while you do these projects? The answer to these questions can be answered by teachers who have done Genius Hour and had huge success. By doing these projects you are making so many cross-curricular connections and students are hitting the core competencies of Personal and Social, Communication and Thinking at a high level of learning.
I have referenced the book “The Genius Hour Guidebook” by Denise Krebs and Gallit Zvi to help solidify examples of Genius Hour projects and many blogs of teachers as well. This blog in particular gave me a lot of insight and resources.
So at this stage, the most important thing to do is to INSPIRE students about what their passions may be. You might have to start with the basics and talk about what a true passion is. The beautiful thing about this model is that if they start a project that they think is a passion and later find out it is not for them, that is still valid learning and a) now they know it is not a passion they see themselves pursuing b) they have appreciation for people who do pursue that passion and c) there is room to be able to start over in the inquiry process. Watching videos such as Caine’s arcade or Kid President’s Pep Talk on youtube will set the stage for creativity.
There is research that concludes that human motivation does not stem from a teacher telling students what to learn. As teachers, we must be flexible to explore what students want to learn as that is where peak motivation lives. The framework of Genius Hour gives students enough time to explore with their own autonomy and really feel like they are reaching mastery level of learning.
Other key benefits include:
They are making good learning decisions
They become fearless learners
They stop playing the game of “good grades”
They develop curiosity, innovation and creativity
They become better understood by teachers and peers
The list could really go on.
Things to Think About :
When introducing Genius Hour you must have a community of learners that feels safe to share ideas and questions.
Students may not be used to an inquiry model of learning. You must work on an environment that allows students to make mistakes and fosters a growth mindset. You also may have to work on how to ask “thick” non-googable questions. This will be important for when they are researching because it should not be a question in which they can look up and get an answer from one search. Some students may not even know where to start with all this autonomy.
To summarize, when implementing Genius Hour with your students you should be showing excitement about them getting to drive their own learning and passions. You should celebrate the differences in their questions and also the mistakes that are going to be made along the way. As teachers we need to embrace the uncertainty because the results may be breathtaking. Always keep reflecting, and making room for growth.