Elementary school students at all five CFBISD Spark STEM Academies participated in a full week of learning from May 17th through 20th called I Am STEM week. Learners at Freeman, McLaughlin Strickland, Rainwater, Riverchase, and Blanton spent a week working through the Engineering Design Process, meeting challenges head-on, and learning important lessons along the way.
The I Am STEM lessons were designed to immerse all students in the problem-solving process. Each grade level began by participating in a read-aloud of a picture book. Then, students worked to identify the problem in the story and start crafting a plan to solve it. Kindergarteners worked on ways to keep Harry the Dirty Dog from running away at bath time. Fourth-grade students worked to help Stellaluna break through the barriers created by her inherited traits. While fifth graders read the book, Hidden Figures: The True Story of Black Women in the Space Race and built a launching system to allow an object to be launched and "escape" Earth's gravity. These lessons brought the full spectrum of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math into the classrooms.
By working through the Engineering Design Process, students solved problems and tested, shared, and improved their designs. "The Engineering Design Process is so important for young learners because it helps instill a growth mindset," says Katie Owen, a STEM teacher at Rainwater Elementary. "It emphasizes that there is always a way to make something better and an opportunity to try again if something doesn't work the first time correctly. Failure and then grow from it is one of the most important things we can teach our students, and STEM and the EDP both help facilitate that lesson in a real-world situation."
The mission of I Am STEM in Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD is to create a world where all students see themselves as scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and more. According to the Texas Education Agency's website, "Texas is expected to have the second-highest percentage of the nation's future STEM job opportunities." Through I Am STEM, CFBISD is working to ensure equity and diversity in the curriculum and engagement with learners from all backgrounds, so every one of our students has the opportunity to succeed in STEM in school and beyond. "I love STEM!" said one student at Rainwater Elementary's SPARK STEM Academy. "I get to solve problems, design, and create new things. It's all the best parts of the school in one!"