Encinitas Advocate News

Cardiff School District empowers students with STEAM and Maker Challenges

Cardiff School District has announced that enhancements made to the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) programs and the incorporation of Maker Days at Cardiff School and Ada Harris Elementary are seeing great success throughout all grade levels. While the K-6 STEAM program was in the 2016-2017 curriculum, the district took steps to enhance the program for the 2017-2018 school year and, in some cases, unite them with maker days to provide students more hands-on opportunities to learn by collaborating, discovering and questioning.

“Our parents and community have always advocated for teaching our students in the most effective environments and with modern, innovative strategies,” said Siena Randall, Cardiff School District board president. “Companies are looking to hire people who can collaborate, lead a group, and are innovators, not afraid to try an idea. The skills our students are learning in the STEAM and the maker spaces will help prepare them to compete in the workforce of the future.”

At Cardiff School, all students attend two Maker Mondays a month in the Science Lab which is led by science teacher Jill Candelaria. Typically, during Maker Monday, students collaborating in teams are given a STEAM challenge using a specific number of items and asked to complete the assignment without being told “how” to do it or to prove anything. There is no “right or wrong” answer. All students also attend Science Lab weekly with hands-on lessons based on the NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards). Both the maker activities and STEAM lessons and projects are also supported in the classrooms.

“I wish I could have Maker Monday every day!” said first grade student Drew Jasper, as his team worked to build a structure that would support a marshmallow using just 15 pieces of spaghetti and one inch of tape.

“The students never stop surprising me with how far they develop their ideas,” said Candelaria. “It’s really exciting to be able to empower the students to think critically and solve problems themselves.”

Cardiff School’s rebuild plan is taking into consideration the success of the program. The district has plans to create more space for student collaboration throughout the campus. Students can expect to have hands-on learning space in small courtyards, common areas, and specific areas in the classroom to continue their exploratory learning.

At Ada W. Harris Elementary School (Ada Harris), science teacher Scott Reily and teacher Debbie Heyer have also taken education and learning at the school another step. Riley, was hired almost two years ago to teach science with a focus on STEAM. Heyer has been with the district for over 12 years and works collaboratively with teachers and students on both school campuses to develop projects that support innovative and personalized learning, including coding and robotics. Over the summer of 2017, the team reorganized the art room at Ada Harris to accommodate makerspace learning activities and provide student access to a variety of materials. Now, the team works with classroom teachers in executing large, grade level specific projects. Some examples are the third grade bridge challenge, integrating aqueducts into the 22nd Mission Project in fourth grade, creating weathervanes and coding a traditional dance for fifth grade Colonial Day and sixth grade’s Project Toy where students created prototypes of new toys to sell to toy companies. The makerspace gives students access to equipment and materials to build and test their projects. They are given time to discover, build, code, talk, test and try again, if necessary. Science and technology is also taught by encouraging students to think and become knowledge constructors. All the programs meet or exceed the county and state education requirements and prepare the students for middle school, high school and beyond.

“Our team had to code our robot to jump one to two feet, so we built our ramp steep,” said sixth grader, Kai Anderson. “The problem was that our robot would only roll up the ramp a couple of inches, so we had to keep rebuilding the ramp until the grade was just the right level for the robot to roll up it. “

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