For this week's teacher spotlight, we salute Rayna Freedman! Rayna is a 5th grade teacher and Information Technology Specialist at the Jordan/Jackson Elementary School in Mansfield, MA. She is on the board of MassCUE and started a STEM literacy team in her district with several colleagues and administrators. Truly an amazing educator and colleague!
Rayna “connected the dots” between Peter & Paul Reynolds’ book - Full STEAM Ahead! – the first title in the twin brothers’ early reader chapter book series called The STEAM-Powered Adventures of Sydney & Simon. The series features twin mice who are truly creative problem-solvers. The book series helps underscore the notion that the “A” in STEAM education – is more than just mixing art into STEM studies – it is about the creative thinking that leads to invention and innovation. Bringing that concept to life, Full STEAM Ahead! features two curious, creative learners taking on water-themed challenges and learning – including the water cycle and Archimedes’ invention of the water pump.
As so many of our creative educators do, Rayna was able to activate the Full STEAM Ahead! story in the classroom – using it to teach the engineering design process. Freedman’s class chose six water-themed challenges - one teacher-driven, the other five “student-tested and student-approved.” Here’s a sampling of the projects they tackled:
- One group created their own irrigation system using a network of paper funnels and straws. They tested their system by repeatedly attempting to successfully move water from the sink to the other end of the classroom, and adjusting the system continually in order to avoid leaks.
- Another group placed white flowers in a glass of water and then added food coloring. In order to track the dye’s movement up the roots and into the flower, they attached construction paper to the flowers with an elastic band in order to chart how it travels up. The group also made lab sheets for other classes to use when attempting to replicate this phenomenon.
- A third group similarly planted flowers. Instead of food coloring, they simply tracked the growth of the plants using data sheets.
In addition to creating lesson plans for their own purposes, Freedman’s class also helped teach others. Her students helped implement the Emerging Engineers Program, through which they taught some of the basics of STEAM thinking to kindergarten classes.
Thanks to Rayna and her students’ creative “arts & smarts”, we now have lesson plans available for ALL teachers to teach the engineering design process using the Full STEAM Ahead book. Click below for a downloadable PDF featuring details about the student-centered STEAM projects, including materials required for each experiment. Also, Freedman’s students wrote reflections on their experiences, which may be helpful for teachers to keep in mind when introducing this project to their own classes.
** Are YOU – or someone you know - activating any of FableVision’s books, media, and/or software to cause learning in more creative, engaging ways? If you'd like to nominate someone for the FableVision Creative Educator Spotlight, click here and complete your submission electronically. **
Follow Rayna on Twitter at @rlfreedm!