An FHS engineering student explains to FISD Education Director Mike Hickey what he has learned in the field during the school year and what he plans to pursue in the area this new year. The two are at the Strategic Planning Workshop for the Foundation where a STEM demonstration was given by several campuses in the district.

FISD building STEAM for new school year

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An FHS engineering student explains to FISD Education Director Mike Hickey what he has learned in the field during the school year and what he plans to pursue in the area this new year. The two are at the Strategic Planning Workshop for the Foundation where a STEM demonstration was given by several campuses in the district.

An FHS engineering student explains to FISD Education Director Mike Hickey what he has learned in the field during the school year and what he plans to pursue in the area this new year. The two are at the Strategic Planning Workshop for the Foundation where a STEM demonstration was given by several campuses in the district.

School begins Aug. 22 in Friendswood ISD and the busy district is building STEAM to start the new year. It is part of this year’s district initiative and it will impact all students in the six campus 6,000-plus district.

STEAM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math education and each of the six campuses in FISD are putting the new initiative into place on their campuses.

The idea to focus on STEAM, or STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) as it was originally called, was shared with the Friendswood community in late May 2016 when special STEAM presentations were given to 30-plus members of the FISD Education Foundation Board of Directors during their annual strategic planning workshop.

Superintendent Trish Hanks shared with the group the great things FISD had been doing with STEAM projects and what was to come in the new school year.

District STEM Coordinator Susan Kirkpatrick was introduced and with Hanks, coordinated events from both elementary and secondary campuses with students to show the amazing programs and projects in the STEAM area underway at campuses.

With faculty and staff at work preparing for the beginning of school, yearly plans to introduce new STEAM programs are underway.

“We focus on these areas together not only because the skills and knowledge in each discipline are essential for student success, but also because these fields are deeply intertwined in the real world and in how students learn most,” Kirkpatrick said.

The initiative’s vision includes an across the curriculum approach and welcomes students and teachers in any content areas.

“Our students are 21st century learners, so it is the goal of FISD to prepare them for the jobs of the future by developing their communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking skills through STEAM,” Kirkpatrick said.

In kindergarten through sixth grades, libraries are being converted into Media Centers where the Media Integration Specialists (MIS – formerly known as librarians) and teachers will provide experiences for students. The media centers will include opportunities for students to work with computer technology, robotics, coding, green screens, 3D printers, engineering challenges, and maker spaces for designing and building.

“Cline’s library has become an engaging media center that fosters a love of reading while encouraging curiosity through exploration,” Cline Principal Barry Clifford said.

Cline MIS Shawna Lewis explained.

“In the media center students are exposed to lessons on digital citizenship, coding, circuits, green screen media, online databases, hands on engineering projects, stop motion animation, 3D printing, social media connections with other schools across the U.S., augmented reality, author visits and much, much more,” Lewis said. “This newly redesigned flexible learning space provides all students with limitless possibilities for learning and is the heart of our school.”

Westwood Elementary is doing similar things.

“We are starting a science lab, an engineering lab, and bringing maker spaces to our new library space. We also have a green screen/media room for students to create visual presentations as well,” Westwood Principal Kristin Moffitt said.

Collaboration with other grade levels is part of the plan.

Kindergarten students at Cline and Friendswood High School Agriculture and Culinary Arts students will be collaborating on a school garden at Cline.

“This project is just one of the exciting new STEAM plans coming to fruition,” Kirkpatrick said.

The elementary campus Media Specialists, I Coaches and Gifted and Talented Specialists will be working closely with all elementary classroom teachers to bring STEAM into the classrooms.

“Science teachers in grades 4-6, coaches, and MIS’s are leading the STEAM initiative at this level and are receiving training from Discovery Education throughout the 2016-17 school year. This part of the initiative is designed to build and sustain a culture of STEAM teaching and learning in our district,” Kirkpatrick said.

More students will have opportunities to work in robotics.

The current TCEA (Texas Computer Education Association) robotics teams at the elementary level and junior high will continue. TCEA is a global member-based organization supporting the use of technology in education.

Additional robotics is planned.

“One focus of this initiative is to identify and develop other robotics and Steam related clubs and competitions, so that more students can participate,” Kirkpatrick added. “The high school will be launching a robotics program and will be participating in competitions through their Engineering classes.”

Engineering classes already exist at both FHS and Friendswood Junior High.

The Project Lead the Way (PLTW) Program provides transformative learning experiences for K-12 students and teachers across the US through pathways in Engineering, Computer Science, and Biomedical Science. FISD currently offers PLTW Programs in Engineering at the high school and PLTW Gateway with units in Engineering at the junior high.

This new year a new unit has been added to the PLTW Gateway program on Medical Detectives at the junior high and two new PLTW courses from the Biomedical program are being offered at the high school. They are Principles of Biomedical Science and Human Body Systems.

Principles of Biomedical Science will provide students with an introduction to Biomedical Science with hands-on projects and problems. Throughout the year, students will explore concepts in biology, medicine, and health conditions by investigating the death of a fictional woman.

In Human Body Systems, students will examine anatomy, physiology, and interactions of body systems by designing experiments, investigating the structures and functions of the human body, and using data collection software. Exploring science in action, students build organs on skeletal manikins, work through interesting real world cases, and often play the role of biomedical professionals to solve medical mysteries.

Medical Interventions and Biomedical Innovations will be the final two PLTW Biomedical courses to be added in subsequent years.

”Living in the Houston area, we are surrounded by many industries, corporations, programs, and institutions of higher education that could offer STEAM programs for our students. FISD will be developing partnerships to identify and implement STEAM opportunities, mentors, field trips, and experiences based on student interests and curriculum standards,” Kirkpatrick said.

Whether it is called STEM or STEAM, FISD has plans to see new programs grow to benefit all students in FISD.

“The Arts were added, so we are STEAM. But, it is also a goal that any teacher in any discipline who has an interest in STEAM should feel welcome,” Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Curriculum and Instruction Lynn Hobratschk said. “We believe that good STEM education encompasses the ‘4 C’s’ of 21st Century Learners – Creativity, Collaboration, Communication, and Critical Thinking, which cuts across all disciplines.”

Story by Karolyn Gephart

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