This year marked the first time STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) curriculum was fully integrated into the curriculum at Eastgate Elementary, with all students engaging in two STEM units during the year. The school has also extended the curriculum to be inclusive to art, appending the acronym to STEAM. To build on the STEAM school focus, the school held a Family Engineering Night in March for students and their families to attend and participate in STEAM activities and challenges.
Family Engineering Night
During the evening families had the opportunity to attend up to six workshops where they could design a launcher, build a tower with pipe cleaners, program a Bee Bot, code a computer game, engage in mini-engineering activities, or create an innovative art project.
“We wanted the event to be an opportunity for families to choose what to engage with and when they engaged with it,” said Krista Palmquist, Instructional Technology Curriculum Leader, who was also led the planning committee for the event.
Families were given a passport-type booklet and encouraged to collect a sticker from staff at each engineering activity they completed.
“It was really exciting to see the community support for this event because we can get families excited about STEM and they can see how fun it is,” said Palmquist. “We can also promote those 21st century skills of problem-solving together and collaborating.”
The workshop activities had simple household items for families to use and build with, ranging from popsicle sticks and cotton balls, to hair curlers and paper plates. One parent told a staff member that she planned to set up an engineering station at home with recyclables; she didn’t know how easy it could be.
Art Teacher, Amy Robertson’s innovative workshop activity on Engineering Night was geared at showing kids that they can make something that is functional, but there are ways to make the project even better by beautifying the piece.
The success of the event was due to community-wide support, including the event planning committee, school staff, other district staff and volunteers, Eastgate’s PTA and the Bellevue Schools Foundation.
The A in STEAM
Art classes at Eastgate are structured with a focus on artisanship and aesthetics.
For example, fifth grade students recently worked on a project called “Check the Box.” They were tasked with creating a game or activity that would fit in a box and then left somewhere for someone else to find and be surprised by. Some groups chose to create tick, tack, toe boards, while another group chose a circus-themed game. After students constructed the activity, they added beauty to it with colors or other materials to enhance the overall design.
“First we were thinking of doing a hangman project, but then were thinking something more fun and creative that would have a sense of humor,” said fifth grader Priya Tampi about how her group decided to create a circus-themed game.
While the project outcomes were different, all groups went through the same process: brainstorming, designing, problem-solving, collaborating and beautifying.
“The A in STEAM stands for art, but it is really aesthetics. Aesthetics is important because students can make something functional, but it might be ugly,” said Robertson. “Learning to create functional objects that are also beautiful is a life-long skill and something our community holds great admiration for. Good artisanship and aesthetics go hand-in-hand.”
Robertson hopes to support classroom teachers with the A in STEAM by continuing to help students build their art techniques weekly in the art room. Students will be able to transfer their art skills to classroom projects to create designs that are both functional and aesthetically pleasing.
Staff are now brainstorming ways to keep up the excitement of STEAM from Family Engineering Night, and how to bring the excitement for the curriculum into the classrooms.
“It’s exciting to see the students so excited about it,” said Palmquist. Their energy from the night feeds into how they come to school and think about scientific learning and engineering. I’m excited to see the positive impact it will have on their learning.”