‘Integrated learning’ the goal with new STEAM + curriculum

With the brand-new STEAM + curriculum, Del Mar Union School District is aiming for the wow factor, removing traditional barriers and engaging students in an interdisclipinary approach to learning in science, technology, engineering, arts and music.

The plus sign represents each individual school’s educational programs that reflect the character of their school community, be it language experiences or increased opportunities for math, robotics, instrumental band or orchestra.

As the district makes the rebranding transition from Extended Studies Curriculum (ESC) to STEAM +, the goal is to incorporate integrated learning in every classroom, not just the specialist’s classroom.

Last week, students headed back to school to see the bright, cheerful STEAM + logo on display on campus banners, and students sported STEAM + T-shirts.

Shelley Petersen, assistant superintendent of instructional services, said the logo designed by STEAM + art teacher Janese Swanson, makes her happy every time she looks at it.

“This is one of the most exciting projects we’ve ever had the pleasure to work on as a district,” Petersen said. “It has been so much fun to launch it.”

Petersen said the district worked hard with the Del Mar Schools Education Foundation to develop their message for what STEAM + really is. She said it is about the highest quality instruction and purposeful learning around clear concepts that require students to think critically and explore solutions to real-world problems.

It is “strategic thinking, innovation and collaboration that promotes deep understanding and helps sustain a lifetime of inquiry,” she said.

Another part of STEAM + is creating responsive learning environments, such as the modern learning studios being piloted at Carmel Del Mar and Sycamore Ridge this year.

‘We have to continue to look at our spaces. We can’t continue to do business as usual,” Petersen said. “We have to think about how the environment is responsive to teachers and students and what we’re asking them to do.”

The new studios offer flexible furnishings and different learning spaces that help students use technology efficiently, build, contemplate, explore and collaborate.

“Our expectations have grown because they’re going to progress so much more quickly because we have an environment that allows them to do that,” Petersen said. The learning studios, she said, “are more than just a ‘nice to have.’”

Peterson said the district will continue to evaluate the pilot modern learning studios throughout the school year, and hopefully the classrooms will be able to be replicated on other campuses.