Your Donations in the Classroom – STEAM at Grant Elementary

Your donations to the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation go to support amazing programs, like STEAM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math! With SMMEF donors’ generous support, Grant now has two STEAM specialist teachers who provide integrated lessons based on the new Next Generation Science Standards in each classroom.

During a recent lesson, STEAM teacher Alana Rattan greeted Virginia Ripley’s third grade students with an enthusiastic, “Hello, engineers!” Students focused their attention on several projected images of bridges. While sharing photos of the bridges, Ms. Rattan reminded students that engineers solve problems – like getting cars and trucks across a river – and that their solutions make life easier for everyone.

Ms. Rattan, a credentialed teacher, developed this engineering unit of study weaving math, science and art into each of the lessons. This particular lesson included hands-on activities that encouraged students to hypothesize about which shapes would produce the strongest bridge. Students would begin with two-dimensional shapes and then move into making and connecting three-dimensional figures to build their bridges. They would then test their construction for stability and strength. After exploring the bridge photos, students were given their first set of building materials – marshmallows and toothpicks. “Squares or triangles? Which do you think will be the best shape to use?,” Ms. Rattan asked as she encouraged students to sketch their shapes and write down their predictions. Many of the students hypothesized that triangles would be sturdier.

Ms. Ripley shared her enthusiasm for the STEAM program: “Just today we had a class discussion about how technology and engineering make our lives easier, and so this lesson really reinforces that concept.” Ms. Ripley also appreciates how the STEAM program supports her growth as a classroom teacher. “The STEAM lessons are aligned with the new Next Generation Science Standards, something we are all learning. It’s fantastic because with the STEAM teacher setting up the materials and leading the lesson, I can walk around and really engage with my students, observing them work and asking them questions to push their thinking.”

Third grader Sam hypothesized that the triangle shapes would be best for building bridges. “They’re just less wobbly than the squares,” he explained. He moved on to test his hypothesis with straws and paper clips, a more challenging set of building materials. When asked how he was able to stick with the experiment after his first attempts didn’t work, Sam answered, “Well, it’s just like building with Legos, you have to just keep trying until you solve the problem.” Sam’s passion for engineering may have begun with Legos, but it is clearly being fostered by Grant’s STEAM program. Thanks, SMMEF donors!