The Valley Stream Union Free School District Thirteen has taken a giant leap forward in STEAM education with the development of exciting new learning spaces called “Innovation Labs,” flexible STEAM learning spaces that were recently opened in each school. This Districtwide initiative was designed to empower students to reach their full potential. These state-of-the-art spaces will allow students to build, create and explore the many areas of science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.
These makerspaces were created to align with the District’s ongoing effort to provide greater opportunities for students and teachers to learn alongside each other in the contemporary areas of science, technology, engineering, art and design, as well as mathematics. The labs will further support a curriculum which holds a multidisciplinary focus that presents real world problems for students to study and asks them to use creativity and use the engineering process to solve.
Integral to the development of the Innovation Labs was the acquisition of materials, supplies and equipment. Due to the enthusiasm this created amongst students and teachers alike, faculty spent a great deal of time researching materials available and making informed decisions about which STEAM components would best serve the students as they embarked upon this journey. To promote teamwork, cooperation and engagement in the engineering process, whiteboard tables and various flexible seating options were added. Lessons that will take place in the labs incorporate educational technology such as LEGO robotics and 3D printers.
Students will immerse themselves in the work of coding, creating and building, and robotics to engage in real-world problem-solving. Students have already constructed robotic hands, moon rovers and garbage sorters, then coded these creations to perform a task. Each unit incorporates literacy skills as well as the application of scientific content and mathematical practice, set in the context of real-life problem-solving situations.
The students aren’t the only ones who benefit from these new spaces, the District’s Technology Department, led by Andrea DiMango, along with instructional coaches and media aides, have provided professional development opportunities within the labs as well. This past week, teachers got to work on new STEAM projects, designed to complement the concepts covered in the District’s science program and utilize the steps of the engineering design process to develop logical thinking skills. Teachers had a fabulous time building, coding, testing and improving upon their LEGO robotics creations.
These opportunities will continue throughout the year as teachers and students participate in challenging learning experiences through STEAM. Learning through creation will be part of the students’ curriculum through weekly visits to the Innovation Lab.
As an example of the work taking place in the Innovation Labs, Mrs. LoBello’s first graders at James A. Dever Elementary recently visited the Innovation Lab and became crayon engineers. The students learned the ten steps involved in making crayons as well as challenging vocabulary words, nonfiction text features, graphing and measurement skills and how matter changes. Students then gathered up old broken crayons and instead of throwing them away, they recycled them into new multicolored crayons in fun shapes. They used these crayons to draw diagrams on postcards to show what they learned during the lesson.
The Valley Stream Union Free School District Thirteen is consistently working towards its goal of progressively enhancing the curriculum and instructional practices in the area of STEAM. The District hopes that by providing these innovation labs, students will be encouraged to further develop their passions within STEAM areas.