At Mosby Woods Elementary School in Fairfax, Virginia, the STEAM Resource teacher has a few tricks up her sleeve for ensuring her students stay engaged during their enrichment activities.
Peyton Avery has been an educator for a decade and, as she rounds out her eighth year teaching at Mosby Woods, she has become the school’s dedicated STEAM Resource teacher. As such, she is in charge of planning science, technology, engineering, art and math-themed activities to be completed during short enrichment periods for each and every student in the K-6 school.
“I see every class only for about 30 minutes and I see them every other week, so that's presented a lot of challenges in terms of big project-based learning.” Mrs. Avery said, as she explained the process of converting her lesson plans to suit shorter windows of time. “So, instead, I do multi-week projects and they're supposed to take four weeks [with hour-long lessons], so [our limited time] makes them take eight weeks.”
While Mrs. Avery’s students have previously used EiE’s Water Water Everywhere and Catching the Wind lessons, this year, the veteran teacher modified the included resources to adapt to a virtual learning environment and encourage student participation during their non-graded STEAM period.
“I was pleasantly surprised how many kiddos did the whole project,” Mrs. Avery said. During the initial transition to virtual learning, she said not all of her students chose to participate in the optional activities, but she had great results with those who did. “The kids that did it, loved it.”
Each curated Engineering Adventure and Engineering Everywhere unit comes with supplies for hands-on engineering activities, from creating an hourglass to modeling water runoff in big cities. To include more context and adapt to each grade level, Mrs. Avery supplements the lessons with additional activities on Flipgrid or watching a related TED Talk, then she demonstrates lessons through live video streams and builds her projects along with her students.
“I love the build phase -- it's so fun. I have a document camera and I zoom in on my hands and I put on music for the 30 minutes and we do a live build and I'm building a different model for every class,” Mrs. Avery said. “So you can in live time, see me struggle. And I'll say, ‘Hey guys, this isn't sticking. What are your suggestions?’ And then usually once I open up and do that, then kids are more willing to say, ‘Hey, what should I do to fold this?’”
Modeling success -- and failure -- is the key to the activities, she said, hoping that the lessons of testing new ideas and being creative stick with her students long past their enrichment period.
“I think that modeling and that doing it with them is actually really powerful. And I like it too. It's fun. And I think it's good for them to see me kind of fall on my face sometimes and have things be kind of off-kilter even when we're finished. This is good,” Mrs. Avery said. “This is good for everybody. Not just while you're in school.”
To see more from Peyton Avery, Mosby Woods Elementary and other #eieinspired schools' STEM journeys, check out @EiE_org on Twitter!