When Rosa Toma upgraded Wetmore’s STEAM Lab with items purchased through the NEEF Grant, she noticed a significant increase in collaboration, inventiveness, and creativity among her students. Not only can they program Dash Robots and work on STEAM projects using iPads, but they also have access to various fun and engaging activities such as magformers, straw building kits, Legos, and art supplies. The students are encouraged to research potential projects and work alone or in teams to execute them. For example, one group of three boys worked together to build a “Teambuilding Helium Hoop” assignment, which required precise coordination between the teammates to make the hula hoop “float.” Instead of the typical power struggles that often arise in teams, the boys complimented each other’s efforts and worked together as a cohesive unit.
In another classroom area, students were independently exploring art concepts and creating watercolor paintings side by side, displaying a form of parallel creativity. This same phenomenon was observed as two boys worked on creating magnet tile structures. Fifth grader Zachary Otte used his memory to create a well-constructed likeness of the Roman Coliseum.
The value of hands-on STEM activities in early education was fully displayed in this classroom, which was abuzz with excitement, critical thinking, and creativity.