District Home

Students explore STEAM in Innovation & Design classes

posted: Wed, Sep 20th, 2017

Carly Solowski, Roshni Desai, and Lauren Jones complete a STEAM challenge

It was only a simulation with colored plastic bits in a plastic cup subbing for a barrel of nuclear waste, but the scenario helped ground the students in the activity.

Small teams of eighth-graders in one of the school’s new Innovation & Design classes were challenged to create several simple mechanisms that would allow them to remotely pick up a barrel of “radioactive” material from a safe distance and dump it into another barrel (i.e. pour bits of plastic from one cup to another). Certainly in the real world, engineers would have more sophisticated components to work with than straws, dowels, tape, rubber bands, popsicle sticks, and string. The project, however, showed students the relevance of the principles of science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) and how they are applied in the real world. It took them through the complete engineering design process, from brainstorming and planning to construction and redesign, while also testing their ingenuity and teamwork.

“This is their first building project of the school year and they've come up with some really creative things,” said teacher Rebecca Kreider. “I’ve been impressed at their thinking.”

An important part of the process is cooperation, feedback, and collective intelligence. After a team demonstrates its mechanisms, Ms. Kreider asks the whole class to offer constructive input on the improvements that might add simplicity and efficacy to the designs.

“Group feedback is an important part of what we do,” she said. “The ability to accept and use suggestions is really a gift. Students have to look at the big picture and think ‘Wow, everyone is making me and my project better’ rather than ‘Oh no, they pointed out a defect in my design.’ It’s giving up ownership and making the project less personal. That’s how collaborative problem-solving occurs in the workplace.”

There are three Innovation & Design classes this year, one for each grade level. They’re held in the new makerspace which was once the school’s woodworking shop – a perfect indication of how “hands-on” instruction has changed in the 19 years since the middle school was designed. Instead of foot-stools and tables, students here will be building hydraulic machines, creating circuits, and fabricating objects using a 3D printer. Using new Rockenbok sets and the TeacherGeek Maker Cart, they’ll be learning advanced engineering principles by building robots and mechanized models.

Later in the school year, they may also be exploring and creating their own virtual reality worlds using Oculus Rifts.

Ms. Kreider teaches the eighth-grade I&D class, Beth Cohen teaches seventh-grade, and the educators team teach the sixth-grade I&D.

Preet Patel and Brandon Marro construct one of their designs

Mount Olive Middle School
160 Wolfe Road Budd Lake, NJ 07828
Questions or Feedback click here
Phone: 973.691.4006 Fax: 973.691.4029

Custom Website Design By JAM Graphics NJ