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Into Darwin Island:NACIS STEAM

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In 1862, three years after the publication of The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin began to study Orchid to prove that natural selection was the engine of biological evolution. The research is also an important milestone in the history of science. NACIS Primary started the first lesson of STEAM with the 100-year scientific research topic in the semester.

What species lived in the world thousands of years ago? How did they evolve? Where could we track the pace of biological development? Our students started a three-week exploration of Darwin's Island with the clues of ancient fossils.

Without a fixed research method, our grade 5 students began the independent exploratory study on fossils.

Some students had a general understanding by searching materials online, some students borrowed books on paleontology from the learning resource center, and other students who had determined their research objects from the very beginning brought books on fossils they usually read to share with everyone. After a general understanding, each group developed a project theme.

During the process, the teacher watched the progress of each project and encouraged students to solve problems independently based on project-oriented learning methods.


From the moment the project was selected, the students needed to complete all procedures by themselves including doing research, writing plans, finding materials and handmaking.

All skills are integrated into the STEAM class such as reading, information summarization, hands-on skills, engineering, artistic design, and presentation skills.


"Imperfect" Works

In the process of fossil making, students had a lot of difficulties.

One of the groups didn’t draw the colors based on the design. They brought their own ammonite fossils. At first, the students wanted to cover the ammonite directly with gypsum plaster to recreate an authentic original fossil. The problem is that gypsum plaster and ammonite firmly stuck together which couldn’t be removed.


Then the teacher and the students looked up information together, and finally decided to split the fossil down little by little. After remixing the plaster as the base, the pieces were reassembled into a complete ammonite.


Unexpectedly, a bigger hurdle lies ahead.

Students cried out: "Why are they changing color?"

It turns out that some fossils appear faded under the sun.  Students looked worried. They looked information with the teacher again and finally decided to use gouache pigment to avoid fading.

This is a special innovation, which makes the STEAM class more interesting.


We expect students to create “unique” works instead of “perfect" work at STEAM class. We want our children to be constantly inspired and challenged to enjoy the process of thinking and creating.

-- Mr. Yan, head of primary STEAM


After Darwin Island, our students will move forward in the challenging year 2020.

Students will explore healthy life, care for the current lifestyle and the health threats, and learn about the harm caused by infectious diseases and COVID-19. After that, we will look to the way of life in the future and predict the technological inventions that will appear in outer space.

Students set sail from Darwin island to explore human’s past, reflect on the present and look to the future. With the vision of “STEAM Makes the World a Better Place”, together with PBL learning system and PSP problem-solving, there is a long way ahead of our students. STEAM is more than just a science lesson at NACIS Shanghai.


Behind the Transdisciplinary STEAM

Science lies in understanding the world and explaining the objective laws of nature. Technology and engineering are to transform the world based on respecting the laws of nature and solve the problems encountered in the process of social development. On the basis of the above aspects, art infuses the imagination. Presentations require students to be able to speak and communicate. The integration of multiple disciplines reflects the original intention of holistic education at NACIS Shanghai.


The interdisciplinary influence is multi-dimensional, which is not only beneficial to the development of students' brain, but also stimulates their emotion, imagination, memory and even concern and participation in the development of human society. With these abilities, students can grow into future talents and contribute to the progress of the world.


Mr. Ma Yun said: “In the past, education in the industrial age was all about standardization and scale, because every child received education in almost the same way. However, in the future, education should be personalized and characteristic with different contents, methods and evaluation systems, and even the relationship between teachers and students is also changing.”

Every child needs to find his or her "role" and become a better person. In this way, they can march forward to the unknown future confidently.