At Hays STEAM Academy in Odessa, Texas, the 4th Grade teacher combines EiE units with real-world cultural examples to empower her students to experiment with engineering.Sheryl Garcia has been an educator for 13 years and loves finding new resources to engage her learners. Ms Garcia also works hard to ensure her learners are getting innovative and proven lessons to help them develop core STEM skills and the courage to try them on their own.
“My big philosophy is always to let the kids learn to be independent, because the more they can do for themselves, the better off they're going to be,” Ms. Garcia said. “And we're just here to facilitate rather than hold their hand and lead. I really push for that motivation and self-reliance.”
Lately, Ms. Garcia has been using digital storybook lessons to enhance her learner’s understanding of basic engineering principles. She said the real-world examples give students a better understanding of how the lessons could be used in day-to-day life. They’ve been learning weather science and started in on geo-technical engineering basics with Suman Crosses the Karnali River, an EiE storybook that features Nepalese characters learning to build a special bridge called a TarPul.
“What we've been saying is these storybooks are amazing. They have great figurative language, they have great character development, they move through the plot,” Ms. Garcia said. “I make sure I use that book as our read aloud time and we read it together and I show the pictures from online. I took the vocabulary pages and the EDP where they sort the process and turned it digital. So what [my students] were doing was discussing after they had read how the character went through each stage and filling that in on their notebook.”
Each curated Engineering Adventure and Engineering Everywhere unit comes with supplies for hands-on engineering activities, from creating a vertical farm to modeling home insulation to control indoor temperature. As Ms. Garcia continues to navigate a hybrid classroom model, she said the flexibility of her lesson plans has been key.
“It's always a learning process every year, but especially this year. Our district told us to be prepared for being quarantined on any day's notice and being at home. So making sure that you're very flexible and fluid in what you're able to do.” Ms. Garcia said. “We wanted to set up our classroom to where we were preparing [our students] for that, so we have taken all of our material and turned digital… So that on any given day, if the whole class is quarantined or half the class, or everybody has those materials at their fingertips.”
For now, Ms. Garcia is focused on ensuring her learners have what they need in their classroom to succeed virtually and preparing them for their next round of standardized testing. As she explores new options for her hybrid lessons and beyond, she keeps herself focused on taking small steps each day to improve the experience for her students.
“Jump in and start, you know, it's gonna be overwhelming at first. Anything new is, but just jump in and pick a good thing from it and run with it,” Ms. Garcia said. “And then afterwards reflect ‘What's one thing I can add that would be better?’ and run with it. Just make each time better than the last.”
To see more from Sheryl Garcia @LennieGarcia6, Hays STEAM Academy @HaysSTEAMshines and other #eieinspired school’s STEM journeys, check out @EiE_org on Twitter!