Engineering the future

A Lego Mindstorm EV3 cruises around the Cleveland Elementary gymnasium. The Fergus Falls STEAM program, an after-school group, received a grant from the 544 Education Foundation to purchase 10 mindstorms, eight iPads and several spare Lego parts.

When looking at the future, education plays a major part in preparing those in the community for the next wave of ideas and jobs. Students at Cleveland Elementary in Fergus Falls are looking to get a jump start on the intrigue of working with automation through the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) program.

Second-grade teacher John Demuth heads the after-school group, which gives students unique opportunities.

“We were looking to give students at Cleveland Elementary an after-school activity that challenged them beyond their daily classroom work,” Demuth said. “It’s a learning experience that is intended to cooperatively engage students using STEAM skills and form a passion to create projects using higher-level thinking skills.”

According to gettingsmart.com, a website for educators and administrators, STEAM cultivates progress from project-based learning through collaborative exploration, to problem-based learning which focuses on real-world problems, and ultimately to place-based learning where students learn by doing. The framework of its teaching is based on natural ways of learning and is customizable for students of all types and programs.

While the group provided a new outlet for elementary students to test their thinking skills, the popularity soon saw the need for more equipment. With a grant from the 544 Education Foundation, the STEAM group purchased 10 Lego Mindstorm EV3’s, eight iPads and several spare Lego parts for the growing group.

Currently, STEAM has four scheduled sessions that can accommodate 24 fourth-graders, 24 third-graders, and 20 second-graders. The STEAM team meets Mondays after school where they work on and are exposed to different areas of learning. These include coding, engineering, math and physics.

STEAM is slightly different than STEM as the later focuses explicitly on scientific concepts, while STEAM investigates the same concepts, but does through inquiry and problem-based learning methods used in the creative process.

“More importantly, students will work in teams that encourage creative solutions, positive interpersonal skills, and sharing of the workload,” Demuth said.

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