Monmouth County Private School – Outdoor School STEAM
The purpose of outdoor school STEAM class is to allow students to study and understand the use of technology across several disciplines, specifically Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics. The focus of the class is to allow students to work in both small groups and individually to understand how technology is used in these disciplines both now and in the future.
The students will:
- learn to work in small and large groups effectively.
understand how data can be collected and analyzed using sensors and computers.
- learn how a computer works and the relationship between operating systems and applications.
- learn to program computers through games and tutorials about several languages.
analyze engineering problems and devise solutions based on limited materials.
- learn how computer technology can be used to create art as well as sculpture.
Many of the projects in the first session involved engaging the students and requiring them to work cooperatively to solve challenges. Class members worked in groups of three or four to complete an engineering challenge which was introduced first. Typical types of challenges included building the tallest structure out of various items, such as, paper, playing cards, paper clips, and tape, that could hold a dollar’s worth of coins. Several one-day engineering projects forced each team to think quickly and to work together to solve a problem. This improved the students’ interpersonal and out of the box thinking skills.
Programming was introduced through an app called Lightbot. With Lightbot, students guide a character through an environment in order to light certain blocks. As each student moved through the puzzles, he or she progressively learned new coding techniques and structures. Students learned about procedures, loops, conditional statements and the ability to break out of loops. Understanding these strategies and techniques allowed students to learn basic coding.
The next major course of study was more involved, as it involved a long-term engineering problem. Students were given a cardboard base, paper, tape and a ping pong ball. Each team of three or four students was tasked with designing and building a structure in which the ping pong ball was placed. Once the ball was released, a timer was started and then stopped when the ball either came to rest or reached the base. The goal was to keep the ball in motion for as long as possible. Students spent weeks creating a system of ramps and tubes to contain the ball while incorporating bumpers and other methods to slow the motion of the ball.
The start of the Winter Session brought about the final running of the ping pong ball challenge. Each team had two chances to run a ball through the series of ramps they designed while being timed. Many of the teams fared well and felt a sense of accomplishment and pride in the results of their hard work.
Following this, students completed an individual art-based project. They were given several class sessions to experiment with two different stop motion animation software applications. Once familiar with each program and process, students were tasked with creating a short stop motion movie to demonstrate a concept that they had learned in a class during this current year. Students were given multiple weeks of class time to complete this assignment.
The next project tackled by the class was to learn to program on the iPads with an app called Tynker. Tynker is a graphical programming language that allows users to quickly and easily create characters on a screen and then control them in animations and in games. Once the class was familiar with the software, each student created a game or animation to demonstrate his or her knowledge.
The spring session was dominated by independent projects. Students were asked to identify one aspect of STEAM that they wanted to dig deeper into. Working individually or in small groups, students identified and proposed a project to develop during class. Projects were varied and reflected the interest of each student. All of the disciplines of STEAM were used in projects. After four or five weeks of work, the students documented their efforts and assigned themselves grades. Students who did not finish their project were given an opportunity to apply for an extension of two weeks before moving on to the next topic.
To date, students have enjoyed working on the engineering challenges and playing the games. Each student has become a better listener and worker. This is evidenced by groups experiencing lower levels of tension and demonstrating an improved ability to engage in cooperative work each day. The utilization of Lightbot allowed the students to learn important concepts while playing a game.
The stop motion project allowed students to become proficient in using the software while exercising creative ways to communicate information. Reflecting on previously taught information allows each student to demonstrate mastery of a subject.
The Tynker project was interesting to many of the students. Allowing students to learn at their own pace provided each with increased expertise and an opportunity to achieve success. In the future, students will be required to produce a more concrete deliverable, similar to the stop motion project.
Most of the students were very engaged in their independent project. Students in this class were required to help each other and to engage in more demanding research before asking for help when encountering problems.
In session one the students learned:
- to work in small and large groups effectively.
- to engage in a logical analysis to understand problems and to devise solutions for each.
- to analyze engineering problems and devise solutions based on limited materials.
- to program computers through games and tutorials about several languages.
- to plan, shoot and edit a stop motion animation based movie.
- to identify and work on an independent project of their own choosing.
TEACHER: Richard Knab