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STEAM learning @ NACIS Shanghai

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Primary STEAM

Grade One
STEAM learning sessions are always keenly anticipated by our Grade One students. This inspiring subject helps to ignite our students’ curiosity and fosters an investigative approach to learning about the world around us. Teachers work together to ensure that explicit links are made between the different subject areas so that by the end of each topic our students have a real depth of understanding. As STEAM lessons are taught bilingually, and link directly to learning in other subject areas, this really helps students to learn new vocabulary in both languages which can then be applied to learning across the curriculum. There have been many wonderful examples of this throughout this academic year in Grade One classrooms. During our thematic topic ‘Green Fingers’ the students learned about the life cycles of plants and looked at designing their own watering devices. Linking to this, STEAM learning sessions focused on designing effective water filters, testing them out and finally evaluating their effectiveness. Furthermore, in our thematic topic ‘From A to B’, students found out about different types of transport from the past and present. Building upon this knowledge, students investigated using elastic bands to power their own models of different types of transport.

Grade Two
During their STEAM lessons, Grade 2 has been learning about the Sun and the solar system. The students created their own devices to harness solar energy as an insulator. This relates to the work around the Global challenges we have been learning about during thematic lessons as part of the Global Campus Comic Book Challenge. Students started to engage with the complex ideas of global warming and climate change, and learned how to link this to their prior learning about properties of the sun.

Additionally, students have been learning about the properties of living things in STEAM. Students have had the opportunity to grow some plants and have learned about animals. We continued this learning during our thematic topics ‘Land, Sea & Sky’ and ‘The Nature of Life’. During Art learning sessions, the students have had the opportunity to explore the work of Henri Matisse and learn about how he was inspired by plants.

Grade Three
In Grade 3, the students have been looking at light in STEAM, using circuits. They are designing a drawing in which to use their lighting effectively.

This has linked into their thematic lessons, learning about the different layers of the rainforest and the amount of light that is available. In art, Grade 3 have been creating aboriginal designs of rainforest animals, using a range of materials, such as rocks, paint and ink to complete their designs.

Previously, the students used foam paper to design and create a stamp imprint of a dinosaur of their choice. This linked back to their STEAM and thematic lessons, where the students learned about lifecycles and fossilization. The students researched the adaptation of animals throughout the Mesozoic Era using their maths skills to create accurately scaled timelines.  The students also researched different types of dinosaurs, creating fact files and taking measurements in order to compare. They used this knowledge in art to create models of their own dinosaurs, using quick-dry clay to construct their models.

Learning about circuits in STEAM has helped the students begin to build an understanding of technology and how it works. In thematic, we will be collaborating in groups to design, build and share our own computer games based on our own knowledge of games we like to play. This will also require using maths skills to consider size, area and measurement to make a game effective and possible to play. We will also be linking in PSHE, so the students have a strong awareness of how to be safe online.

Grade Four
Students in Grade Four have had a great year in their STEAM lessons. As well as starting the exciting Crab/Vegetable Ecosystem this semester, they have made many links across other subject areas. Students looked at the way the body works through studying and investigating movement. They developed skills to research and to measure their heart rates. They were also able to consider how exercise and diet effects your health, taking detailed information in their food diaries. This learning linked directly to their Art pieces which showed repeated patterns of the human form in an exercise pose. In addition to this topic, students were able to use their existing knowledge of food in ‘Bake it’. This topic allowed them to investigate reversible and irreversible solutions: evaporation, condensation, absorbency and insulators. They used their drawing skills to design an ice-cube container and were able to engineer it using a variety of materials, which they had tested for this purpose.

During our ‘Space’ topic, students were able to use technology to investigate how light moves, how to record the size of the sun, to research planets and stars in depth, and to create and record a news report using a green-screen.

Students researched the work of the artist Kandinsky, who created abstract, geometric pieces. When the students created their own pieces, they listened to classical music to guide their movement, allowing the artwork to become a direct response to the music.

Grade Five
In STEAM this year, Grade 5 students have explored a number of engaging topics, which have helped to develop their practical learning skills and become better critical thinkers. STEAM teaches the students about knowledge, but also links this knowledge to wider world issues. An example of this was when the students were focusing on climate change. Of course, STEAM is linked to many other core subject areas at NACIS. As a result of covering the topic of Global Warming in STEAM, the Grade 5 students were able to talk more knowledgably about different habitats and what impacts them both positively and negatively. This same theme was further consolidated through artwork that the students produced, inspired by the work of Banksy. The students were encouraged to create a beautiful background (habitat) which they then spray painted an animal onto. It is this ability to link with other subjects that makes STEAM so valuable.

As the year progressed, the students look at different forces in STEAM, which not only supported the students in our thematic topic ‘Making things go’ (a topic about energy and power) but also supported the students with areas of their Maths enquiry. These enquiry skills that are developed in STEAM are important to support the students in becoming more creative thinkers, better problem solvers and more observant learners. STEAM promotes skills that can be used across subject areas on a daily basis.

Secondary STEAM

STEAM in Secondary is coming to the final few lessons on their third major project of the year: “Power the Future”. For this project we have been applying the STEAM thought process to Global Goals with the final parts of the project working on a real world applied solution. We first started by looking at where the problems came from, why they have become so complex and interconnected and how humans aim to overcome them by working towards these goals. The main three goals we have focused on include:

Global Goal 1: No Poverty

Global Goal 7: Affordable and clean energy

Global Goal 12: Responsible consumption and production

Students demonstrated a strong understanding of the solutions currently available to us when looking at different forms of renewable energy. Students had hands-on experience when learning the basic of how electronics circuits work and how alternate components can have diverse affects and outcomes.

Students have also further developed skills they learnt from poster work as a group last semester and are demonstrating their creative skills individually this semester with some well thought out designs. So far they have demonstrated a good level of knowledge about the clean energy solutions available at present and can apply this to a basic understanding of energy conversion principles.

Next, for the finale of the project students will build solar lights using their new circuitry skills, these lights will then be sent to the African country, Rwanda, where they will aid communities in achieving the main Global Goals of this project. To aid with finding funding for the lights shipping and supply costs, STEAM in secondary has teamed up with the IB CAS students who are also working towards spreading awareness of the Global Goals and taking their own steps to achieve these in our local school community and beyond. We look forward to the events they are planning.

Next in STEAM, students will finish the year improving their IT skills and preparing for next year by creating some simple video games using online software called Microsoft SCRATCH.

High School STEAM

You won’t find a ‘STEAM’ lesson in the their timetable, because every day is a STEAM day! Each course integrates STEAM philosophy and practice through the specific approaches to teaching and learning (ATL) and the content of the courses. Every day, students participate in student-driven tasks that require all of the fundamental components of a STEAM education:

  • Inquiry, investigation, logical reasoning
  • Critical thinking
  • Systems thinking
  • Interdisciplinary knowledge or skills
  • Problem-solving (especially real-world problems)
  • Real world applications and situations
  • Making something
  • Creativity
  • Innovation

In Music, students apply Interdisciplinary Knowledge and Skills by learning about the history of music since the Medieval times, then transfer this knowledge to better understand music of different times, and finally use technology to create their own visual and digital compositions.
 
In Visual Arts, the highly personalized curriculum allows students to choose their own art mediums and techniques and we have students experimenting with fire, glass and other physical and chemical materials to unite the sciences and arts.

Real world applications and situations feature heavily in Group 3 – Individuals & Societies, with students in Business Management using technology, mathematics, the arts and psychology to set up and run their own business.
 
Inquiry, investigation, logical reasoning and critical thinking are ever-present in Language courses. In the Chinese Language & Literature course, students research languages in the world, such as Shanghai dialect and even Morse Code, applying knowledge from the humanities and sciences to understand the use of language, and create innovative ideas about the future of language. Students also transfer their understanding of the social science of language to create their own innovative literary works based on historical texts and drama. In English B courses, students apply research skills to investigate real-world issues and create texts that seek to inform, educate and persuade; integrate technology and language to create multimedia texts; and apply arts and design principles to investigate the transmission of messages.
 
In Mathematics, our mathematicians engage in a long-term individual investigation drawing on deep conceptual understanding and real-life STEAM situations to create a research paper.

In the Sciences, real world examples are much more meaningful than theoretical experiments. Students conduct experiments to identify the nutrient content of food, they design and build bridges, and they investigate potential methods of protecting astronauts from UV light.
 
CAS is an ideal platform for STEAM-style learning. Current CAS projects include: using  science, engineering and mathematics knowledge and skills to build a greenhouse out of recycled materials; and using science, technology and the arts to develop real solutions to sustainable clothing. Of course, our substantial work on developing solutions to achieve the UN Global Goals is also STEAM-in-action!
 
Technology itself plays a fundamental part of the design of all learning experiences, with virtual platforms allowing teachers and students to see real-time results and feedback, create virtual worlds, and develop technology skills.

The essence of STEAM is an interdisciplinary approach to learning that allows students to develop enthusiasm for disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts (Humanities) and Mathematics. The personalized and practical nature of courses allows students to have hands-on practice with projects that drawn on all disciplines.
 
Participating in STEAM-related events, interdisciplinary learning and project-based learning – all experiences found in our Secondary Enrichment Week – is a highly valuable way to prepare for success in IB!

NAE STEAM Week @ MIT

Last month, four NACIS students were given the amazing opportunity of going to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston, USA. The students experienced a fun programme of STEAM-based and unique MIT activities, led by world-leading academics and students, as well as having the chance to make new friends from all over the globe and find out what it is like to be a student at MIT.

Day one began with a tour of the MIT campus with the children having to break code and work as a team to discover the secrets of MIT’s lustrous history. They then took part in an engineering workshop where they learned about the processes taken to develop products for a mass market industry. The day ended at Boda Borg, which tested the students’ code breaking and team building skills to the limit in multiple sensory, intelligence based and physical challenges.

Day two demonstrated the many ways that technology can be linked to other aspects of life such as health, art, music and even using artificial intelligence, like virtual reality, for psychological purposes as well as gaming. The students were able to make their own wearable device which they coded to measure a person’s movement, temperature or heart rate. They were also able to produce and mix music using professional hardware and software that is currently of the highest technology in the industry.

Day three was the prestigious 2.009 course which produces some of the top engineers in the world. The students had the task of designing, modeling, testing and producing a toy for today’s market. They had to work in teams of children from across the globe, alongside a current MIT student, who helped them to ideate and then pitch their ideas to one of three CEO’s that visited that day. The focus and determination presented by our NACIS students was fantastic!

The following two days were spent visiting the MIT museum, the Science museum, Harvard University and touring Boston, learning about its vibrant history. All students were excellent ambassadors for Nord Anglia and thoroughly enjoyed every moment of the trip. We would certainly recommend this experience to anyone, even if you don’t think Science is your favourite subject! The world-leading academics and students that we met were incredibly inspirational and gave us a real sense of what it would be like to study at such a high level at MIT.