STREAM-ing at St. Mary Elementary and St. Joseph Schools

Fri, Feb 3rd 2017 01:00 pm
Students of St. Joseph School of Batavia investigate and work together during their STREAM activities. (Courtesy of St. Joseph School Batavia)
Students of St. Joseph School of Batavia investigate and work together during their STREAM activities. (Courtesy of St. Joseph School Batavia)

St. Mary Elementary School In Lancaster began its STREAM integration during the 2015-2016 school year. "Being a STREAM school takes a lot of planning, organization and professional development for the teachers. Last year, we were new to the program and we learned so much," said Becky Hoag, STREAM coordinator for St. Mary's. The school offers STREAM Academies to all students during the school day on Friday afternoons thanks to the support from principal, Kim Kwitowski.  "I am very happy that we are a STREAM school.  STREAM education is essential to the future of our children and helps to shape their everyday experiences," stated Kwitowski.  

During the fall of 2016, elementary students participated in Kitchen Chemistry, PEAP (Primary Engineering Adventures Program), Lego U, Structures (exploration of the properties of various building materials by constructing structures), Creative Coding (Google CS First - Storytelling) and Science Scrimmage. St. Mary's middle school students could choose to participate in Future City, Science Olympiad, Robotics, Rockin' Roller Coasters, Newspaper Club, Arcade Academy and Lego U. "Our school is filled with an excited buzz each Friday because we have STREAM.  The students enjoy participating in these activities and our teachers enjoy seeing the growth of creativity in our students as a result of STREAM activities," Hoag said. On Dec. 4, St. Mary's Elementary School sent a robotics team to the X-STREAM games Vex Robotics competition at St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute in Kenmore. Several students displayed their Arcade Academy games at the event. Future City students and Science Olympiad students are looking forward to their upcoming regional competitions in January and March respectively.  

In addition to STREAM Academy activities, St. Mary's students get to experience Engineering Design Briefs. "These briefs allow our students to think outside of the box by using the engineering design process," said Hoag. Students will continue participating in STREAM Fridays. Being a STREAM school provides St. Mary's students with many new opportunities.  Students have participated in Shea's school outreach programs, trips to the Buffalo Science Museum, a month-long Buffalo Zoo educational experience, Junior Achievement, UNYTS educational outreach programming and visits to the Tifft Nature Preserve.  

Another aspect of St. Mary's STREAM initiative is to encourage teachers to reach out to the community to inform students about the 21st-century job force. "To help my fifth-graders make career connections, Mrs. Heary (a nurse practitioner) came to speak to our class about the circulatory and respiratory systems. Ms. Stringer provided our class with two informational sessions about the way of life in Rwanda because she spent time there as an English teacher.  Mrs. Duane spoke to our class about her exciting profession as a blogger," said Michelle Heater, fifth-grade teacher.

According to Hoag, STREAM has taken over St. Mary Elementary School and has been a positive force of learning and creativity for both students and teachers. Students at the school will continue to grow and develop the 21st-century skills of problem solving, critical thinking and collaboration as the school continues to work towards STEM accreditation.

Meanwhile, in Batavia, the students of St. Joseph School engage in STREAM activities using classrooms furnished with new 21st-century furniture. Thanks to a generous donation, the school has furnished each classroom with furniture pieces that allow teachers to customize learning environments to encourage alternative methods for group collaboration and instruction.

Clusters, or pods, of seating options accommodate interactive and social activities. Pods allow students to work in small groups, to interact directly, see facial expressions and establish eye contact.

In a collaborative learning classroom, the teacher is not fixed at the front of the room. A mobile teacher moves easily from group to group to address questions and facilitate discussions.

The classrooms also provide students with alternative individual seating and workspace choices. Balance ball chairs and standing desks provide students who have difficulty focusing with an outlet for their energy. Studies of the benefits of a chairless classroom showed improved learning and reduced obesity by making children more active. Researchers found that the ability to move around more while studying made the students more attentive.

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