This summer I had a chance to teach a STEAM class to K-5th graders for a week. For those that may not know, STEAM stands for Science, Technology. Engineering, Art, and Math. I love STEAM. I most cases, children are asked to solve a problem, given some rules, and then set free. How they choose to solve the problem is completely up to them. For example, in the picture above the children were asked to build a bridge between tables that supported a bucket full of rocks. They could only use popsicle sticks, clothes pins, and binder clips. the kids LOVED this project. In fact I even had several adults that wanted to try. Throughout the course of the kids' building we talked about non-standard measurement, observation, and weight distribution. The kids were learning and they didn't even know it! It was awesome!
The other thing that I love to teach children when I teach STEAM is the computer programmer's model for solving problems. First we talk about breaking a big problem into smaller parts. For example, with the exercise from above we began simply building a bridge that would go between the two tables. Once they had the bridge we made worked on slowly adding weight until their bridge could hold the entire bucket of rocks. We had a lot of failures, but we talked about how we don't give up when a problem gets hard. We persevere. When the kids did finally create a bridge that worked, they were so happy! There was a lot of cheering. Several kids said at the end of the week how STEAM was their favorite class! Learning and loving it!
Using primary sources in the classroom means using objects and artifacts from the time in history that you are studying. It means moving away from the text book and into journal entries and letters. In the past, children might see a picture of a tool in a history book with a caption underneath that told them how the tool was used. That tool would have been completely forgotten mere minutes after the child turned the page. By using primary sources, children are asked to look at a picture of a tool and guess how it was used. To do this they have to make observations and activate their prior knowledge of the time period. All of these leave a longer lasting memory than just looking at a picture in a history book.
Did you know that every single state includes the use of primary sources in their standards? Even states like Virginia and Florida that don't use the common core, included the use of primary sources in their standards. In Virginia, using primary sources is the very first standard under history and social sciences in kindergarten.
In the month of May, my online class is all about using primary sources. We are going to learn about ways of finding primary sources and the copyright rules that govern using those resources in class. I have some very interesting activities planned, and I think that everyone will find that using primary sources in the classroom can really engage students. I look forward to learning with all of you!
Kathryn Harrison has worked in several different educational settings, so she has a unique perspective on education.