In my heart of hearts I am a teacher of the arts. I began integrating technology into my classroom practice a number of years ago but always from a creation perspective. There is still a misconception that innovation is synonymous with technology. However, some of the deepest innovative learning comes from low technology. Keep it simple. On the whole students enjoyed being challenged and getting the opportunity to practice problem solving in a safe and creative way.
In order to practice the true design process I have been testing a number of STEAM challenges with students in a variety of grades. When I do this, I ask them feedback on the process that we experience and how I might change it for other grade levels. Students always amaze me with the amount of innovation that they demonstrate when given the opportunity and their feedback has been helpful to streamline the challenges.
I recently worked with a grade 6 class for a STEAM challenge and brought bags of materials for each pair of students. In the bags were: two tiny plastic cups, 10 jumbo paper clips, 10 small paper clips, 4 large elastics, 4 paper straws, 2 marbles and access to string and masking tape. I showed the students the materials and gave them about 10 minutes to create a design. The caveat was that whatever they created had to have some kind of function or movement. They could cut or change the materials as needed and did not have to use all of the materials. We discussed the different part of the The-Design-Process and made success criteria for the challenge. The success criteria focused on communication, collaboration, critical thinking and problem solving. It wasn’t about who build the “coolest” thing. There was room to be creative, there was room to fail and there was room to improve upon the design and try again.
Their creations were amazing! Here are a couple of innovative designs that two of the groups created. To my ultimate delight-the engagement was the same for all genders in our classroom.