At the Atlantic Shores Christian School in Chesapeake, VA, the STEM Academy and Lab teacher is sharing her passion for EiE’s hands-on lessons, one class at a time.
Enrollment: 750 School Type: Private Grades: Pre-K - 12
Mallory Schmidt has been an educator for nearly five years and as a STEM and Computer Science specialist for her school, she’s using her creative thinking and EiE Ambassadorship to inspire the next generation of problem solvers. Ms. Schmidt teaches students from preschool through sixth grade using hands-on lessons and is loving the results — for herself and her students. Four years ago, Atlantic Shores Christian School decided to make STEM a priority in their programming. They now host a STEM Academy through which students can opt-in to an all-day STEM class, as well as bimonthly STEM lab sessions for all grades, PreK-6. These inclusive opportunities allow Mallory to reach students of varying exceptionalities, neurodiversities, and linguistic competencies.
When Mallory was given the opportunity to support STEM and Computer science, she knew EiE’s Engineering and Computer Science units were the perfect solution as they aligned with each grade level (1-5) to support an integrated approach to problem-solving. For example, Atlantic Shores Christian School is implementing:
• K- EiE for Kindergarten: Designing Trash Collectors
• 1st - 5th Grade: Engineering and Computer Science Essentials
• 6th Grade- Engineering Everywhere: Designing a Water Reuse System
“The curriculum has taken such a weight off of my shoulders because prior to this, and I think this is the case for most STEM teachers, I was creating my own (lesson plans). You're doing it as you go,” Ms. Schmidt said, explaining that the time she saves has given her a chance to take care of herself and be a better teacher when she’s in the classroom.
“Prepping the EiE lessons has given me an abundance of time back to be able to dive into things that I need to do in my own life—both in and out of school.”
While Ms. Schmidt’s students have especially loved EiE’s Hand Pollinators and A Slick Solution: Cleaning an Oil Spill units, the creative educator said the thing she loves most is the way her students are so engaged when digging into any EiE activity.
“One hundred percent, (my students) are the most engaged that I have seen in a long time. The second graders just finished the hand pollinator lesson and they came in and they were so excited to just do it.” Ms. Schmidt said. Ms. Schmidt describes what her students loved most about engaging with the EiE units. “Students will come into my classroom and ask, ‘Oh, is it our build-week?’”
In the last few years, Ms. Schmidt has begun using EiE curricula for each of her classes and using the extra time she saves to expand on the existing lessons. As Mallory becomes more comfortable and confident in teaching the EiE units, she has noticed the same confidence build within her students. The benefit of facilitating lessons with a consistent structure is that although the science content differs from year to year, the format of lesson progression remains a grounding constant. Learners are prepared for an increase in rigor as they move through the challenges and consequently develop more agency in creative design-thinking.
"It's been really fun to learn about some of the topics that maybe I wasn't as knowledgeable about and then to pull in extra resources. Like today with the oil spill lesson, there's a National Geographic video about the BP oil spill and how it is still affecting some islands off of Louisiana.” Ms. Schmidt said. “So my students were like, ‘Oh, I had no idea that that was a thing.’ And so it's been really great. The time that I would have been devoting to just finding lessons to do, I can devote to making the curriculum even more enriching and bring in things that students are really loving.”
As the only educator leading STEM instruction at her school, Mallory often attended conferences to build her learning community and professional growth to improve her instructional practices. With the launch of the EiE Ambassador Program, Mallory has found a great level of support within the professional learning community (PLC) to pose implementation queries, offer guidance to others, and stay informed by attending EiE learning opportunities.
To see more from Mallory Schmidt, Atlantic Shores Christian School in Chesapeake, VA and other #eieinspired organization’s STEM journeys, check out @EiE_org on Twitter!