Dresden Middle School’s 5th grade students recently worked together to create a colorful piece of art by integrating science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics [STEAM] into one fun project.
Under the instruction of 5th grade Science teachers Susan Kendall and Kari Walker, students combined classes to work on a two-day collaborative project that involved the use of a pendulum and paint to study patterns in motion. The results allowed students to identify the relationship between gravity and friction.
Kendall and Walker’s classes have been studying the 5 patterns of motion as part of a unit on Gravity, Forces, and Motion.
“We were learning how forces create patterns within a system,” explained Kendall. “We took an aspect of the unit and created a pendulum. The students placed paint inside the pendulum and observed how the paint would move over large sheets of cardboard we placed on the floor. The students then modified the variables, including adding water to the paint and altering the length of string. The students found that the paint pattern changed as different variables were modified in the experiment,” she explained.
Day one of the two-day dual class project consisted of input, taking notes, studying concepts, learning terminology, defining key terms, and applying what they learned to answer various questions. Students launched into the hands-on part of the activity on day two by creating a pendulum and weights with bottles of brightly colored paint. After recording their results based on the change in variables for each of the trials, they considered what additional variables could be changed in future experiments.
While the activity was a study in a Science unit, the project was a great example of cross-curricular learning that touched into various key subject areas. As with many subjects, each lesson builds on previous learning. The terms that students learn are repeated throughout the unit and are applied again in each lesson. One recent project had students reading graphs, creating math data tables, reading comprehension of key concepts, writing and recording results and other data, and building prototypes.
Kari Walker, a first-year teacher at Dresden Middle, was surprised by the professionalism of the students.
“This is the first time that we’ve gotten the classes together and it was exciting for them to get into groups,” said Walker. “They did a great job collaborating and working with a classroom of peers who they’ve never worked with before this project. Each student took great ownership of their role and pulled together to read instructions, record observations and results, gather supplies, and return completed work and materials. We were impressed,” Walker shared.
The students enjoy STEAM activities as well.
“Using Art helped me understand how patterns and motion work together. It was fun!” Peyton Oliver remarked.
Principal David Lewellen said that this activity is a great example of the methods teachers utilize to bring real world application into the classroom.
“More and more, our teachers are utilizing activities and lessons that incorporate STEM and STEAM in some variation. Our 5th grade Science collaboration is just one instance among many of cross-curricular teaching that takes place in our schools each day. No matter the subject, teachers in every area of instruction and grade level incorporate mathematics, history, English Language Arts [ELA], reading comprehension, applied learning, and much more into each lesson they teach,” noted Lewellen.
Kendall and Walker said that the open sharing of ideas between this year’s Science education team at Dresden Middle is fine tuning their united teaching goals.
“Our 5th through 8th grade Science teachers have been meeting this year to collaborate and share ideas and resources. What we teach them in 5th grade is essential to continue building a student’s foundation of knowledge in the 6th grade. It’s been so helpful to identify key areas to focus on to help our students succeed after they advance to the next grade level,” said Kendall.
Walker added, “We discuss careers in the field as well as local opportunities for students to work in various areas that utilize science. Connecting these students with opportunities and applying learned concepts beyond the classroom is a big focus for us as teachers.”
Integrating areas of study is a shift in educational instruction on the whole, says Elementary Supervisor Terri Stephenson.
“The days of teaching subject areas in a silo are behind us. Teachers today integrate as many subjects as possible into each activity of the day. It takes a new approach to teaching, a shift in mindset, and an integrated approach to planning instruction. We are very fortunate to have teachers who use their creativity to make learning both fun and effective,” Stephenson said.
Despite increasing pressures, Assistant Director of Schools Betsi Foster says that Weakley County’s teachers never fail to implement unique methods of instruction for students.
“Expectations on educators increase every year, but teachers in our district never fail to enlist new and creative ways to teach outside of the box,” Foster noted. “This big-picture approach to teaching shows students that all subject areas are connected, they build on each other, and they are all equally important areas of study.”
For more on Weakley County Schools, visit weakleycountyschools.com.