BY BARRY WARNER
The South Orangetown School Administration has been working this summer on a valuable series of initiatives to enhance student achievement for the 2016-2017 academic year. Dr. Robert Pritchard said, “We want students to exercise the part of their brains that allow them to solve problems that have yet to be solved. Integrating the arts, sciences and humanities fosters creativity and innovation for young learners.”
Dr. Pritchard spoke to the Rockland County Times about the following: The Learner-Active, Technology- Infused Classroom (LATIC); Integrating science and the arts; littleBits; Next Generation Science Standards and the 2016 Summer STEAM Camp.
In the Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom, students are ‘empowered’ to take responsibility for setting goals, scheduling time, using resources and making decisions. They are more focused and get involved with problem-solving on open-ended situations by working independently or with their classmates. Technology is used as a resource to support challenges and does not serve as the prime objective. For instance, Glogster is a web 2.0 tool that allows users to create visual posters, text, audio, images and hyperlinks that can be shared with others electronically in digital environments. The teacher serves as a facilitator and differentiates instruction to meet the needs of each individual learner in order to develop critical executive function-skills. These include the 4 C’s of collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creativity aptitudes, which are essential to college and career success.
By using a cross-curricular approach, teachers can integrate fine arts into instructional activities through visual, auditory and kinesthetic pathways. For instance, photos of Alexander Calder’s mobiles show the scientific application of balance and movement. Students can then use a variety of materials to make their own mobiles that move in response to touch or air currents.
littleBits is a platform of easy-to-use electronic building blocks that enable students to invent anything, from a remote controlled car to a smart home device. The Bits snap together with magnets and no soldering, wiring or programming is needed. Students in all grades are having fun with these open-source kits.
According to Next Gen Science Standards (NGSS), science education is central to the lives of all Americans, preparing them to be informed citizens in a democracy as well as knowledgeable consumers. If the nation is to compete and lead in the global economy and the American students are to be able to pursue expanding employment opportunities in science-related fields, all students must have a solid K-12 science education that prepares them for college and careers. Scientific practices in the NGSS include the critical thinking and communication skills that students need for post-secondary success and citizenship in a world fueled by innovation in science and technology. These science practices encompass the habits and skills that scientists and engineers use day in and day out.
This past summer, 225 students, grades 1-9, participated in the first two-week free STEAM Camp (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Mathematics) hosted at South Orangetown Middle School. The participants had experiences in such areas as kitchen chemistry, fairy-tale engineering, Rube Goldberg inventions, physics of sports, biology, coding and 3-D printing.