Powerful learning occurs at the intersection between steam and making

Small Moments                                                                           February 17, 2016

Last summer, I participated in a workshop where Jon Harper (an exemplary blogger in my opinion) shared his advice regarding writing blog posts.  He suggested to the group that they look for small moments in everyday life as an inspiration for writing.  He shared an activity where we explored photos and described the small moments evident in the pictures.  A photo of a child at the park, a colorful sunset, a kind gesture from a student, all served as story-starters.  I remember feeling like that was a great strategy to narrow down a writing topic and focus on that one idea, but I wondered--as educators, parents, coaches, counselors (and all the other hats we may wear) how do I slow down and find the time to appreciate those moments?

So many months after that workshop, I finally find myself taking a minute to reflect.  It's not that I haven't had interesting things to reflect on in the last 6 months, but for whatever reason (the fast pace of working in a public school system, being a mother to 2 boys under the age of 4, finishing writing my first book) I haven't allowed myself to indulge in those moments and write about them.

Last week, our district held its first-ever STEAM Walk event.  (Thank you to the Beaver County Educational Trust for the grant money!)  The evening was planned by our student leaders, who also facilitated the activities in each station.  We had students learning about circuits and robotics.  Some built with Legos and K'Nex.  Others demonstrated screen casts on our new "green screen" wall.   We also showcased our new learning space, named by our students as the Success Studio.

In one area, we had marble runs that were designed by students with recyclable materials (paper towel rolls, styrofoam, duct tape, etc.)  The students and families that attended the event loved the marble runs so much that they started creating their own.  One of the student leaders turned to me and said, "This is turning out better than I EVER imagined!"   She was so excited, almost amazed that so many people were engaged in learning.  

While it would've been really easy to get overwhelmed by the hectic pace of that evening (talking with parents, running to locate extra batteries for the circuit station, providing comments to the media, helping some students as they messed with conductive play dough), I was struck by the glimmer in her eye and the enthusiasm for this new learning that she was observing.  I was so glad that I was able to slow down and feel the passion in the room.  In that small moment, I realized that we were creating something better for our students.