In June, Link’s 6th and 7th grade classes transformed into STEAM learning labs as scholars were immersed in a one week of hands-on, innovative learning experience in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) using the i2 Learning curricula. Link scholars learned about the engineering design process and course content as they collaborated with their peers through a series of design challenges that lead to a final project. During the week, 6th graders completed a course in Kinetic Sculptures – 2D and 3D movable sculptures, and 7th graders completed one of two courses – Digital Game Design or Building a Lunar Colony.
Sixth graders learned about kinetic sculpture artists, such as Alexander Calder, and explored concepts of balance, gearing, energy sources and design-oriented thinking. They excelled at real world design challenges collaborating with their peers, mastering engineering concepts, and applying storytelling and artistic design as they built mobiles, automata, marble runs, and turbines.
In game design, 7th graders used coding to design an original video game with custom graphics, sound effects and music. They integrated player feedback and refined their game before sharing it at the showcase. In lunar colony, 7th graders imagined a world in which the Earth’s resources could no longer sustain life and humans would have to relocate to another planet – the moon. Students investigated impacts of the lunar environment, debated whether moon colony was viable, and constructed models of possible colonies to meet specific criteria and constraints. Mid-week all 72 seventh graders learned more about the moon in a videoconference with Lindsey Jones, a distance learning specialist with National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Goddard Space Center in Maryland.
STEAM is an educational approach that uses science, technology, engineering, math, art and design as tools for learning to encourage critical thinking, creativity, inquiry, and collaboration so they can thrive in school and beyond. Link Education Partners collaborated with Link Community Charter School to pilot STEM Week in June 2016 in its efforts to expand learning beyond the traditional classroom, equip students with tools to be lifelong learners, and broaden students’ horizons and career pathways. In response to positive feedback from students and teachers, Link expanded the program this year to include both 6th and 7th graders and incorporated the arts and design (thus the A in STEAM). Eight Link teachers (four in each grade) joined Newark Public Schools educators for a two-day training in March 2017 with i2 Learning as part of the launch of the first annual Newark STEM Week. Special thanks to the partners, i2 Learning and Schools That Can, and funders, PSE&G Foundation and Link Education Partners, who made the 2nd Annual Link STEAM Week possible.