What is STE(A)M?
Eagan's Glacier Hills Elementary School's new tech tools mix art, science
by Christopher Magan
TWIN CITY PRESS
Glacier Hills Elementary School is taking hands-on learning to the next level.
In September, the Eagan science magnet school will open a new laboratory that combines the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics. The "STEAM room" will allow students to create objects using new tools, such as a 3-D printer and laser etcher, when exploring scientific concepts.
The new tools amazed fifth-graders Zach Wollak and Jane Vasterling. They used the etcher to carve a Vikings logo and built small trinkets with the 3-D printer.
"The first time I used the laser, a tiny little fire was behind the light," Jane said. "It was cool."
Jill Jensen, the school's science specialist, said these are unique learning tools because they allow students to create something they envision.
"There is a lot of underlying learning in making something in your mind a reality," Jensen said.
That type of creative learning means science specialists like Jensen will be working more closely with art teachers like Erin Paulson. Paulson was pleased to see her school pairing art and science education to encourage creative thinking.
|Science specialist Jill Jensen, center, talks with Jane |
Vasterling, right, about the new Replicator2 3-D printer
at Glacier Hills Elementary. Standing behind the
teacher are Maddy Braatz, left, and Cristina Suarez.
(Pioneer Press: Jean Pieri)
The tools are becoming more popular in Twin Cities schools and in classrooms around the globe. They are championed by researchers at Stanford University who believe putting low-cost technology in the hands of students can transform how they learn about their increasingly digital world.
Glacier Hills is one of the first elementary schools in the east metro to use the equipment typically reserved for middle and high schools.
Nicole Frovik, who coordinates the school's magnet program, raised money through grants and parent donations to purchase the equipment. Some people were skeptical elementary school students could benefit from such advanced tools, Frovik said.
"We're proving them wrong," she added.
The new tools were a big hit at a recent family science night. Families will be an important part of the new STEAM room when it opens. Volunteers will help staff the lab, and it will eventually be open to residents outside of the school day.
"Our vision is for the whole school to come in and create a project," Jensen said. "This is the future of where science education is going."