Back in the summer, when I was mapping out my curriculum for my library media center classes this school year, I really wanted STEAM to be the foundation of everything we do. For those of you not in the know with this trending educational acronym, STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (and was formerly known as STEM). The first big project that I did with my fourth, fifth, and sixth graders was Designing Your Own Dream Playground. Students had to first sketch out a blueprint for their designs and placement of their playgrounds. Then, they needed to build a small model of their designs using recyclable materials (see left photo above). The entire process was fun and I was rather impressed with the finished products. The sky was the limit in terms of their imaginations, and many of my students pushed themselves to create amazing playgrounds.
I also implemented Free Time Activities this year. Because most of my curriculum relies heavily on project-based learning, my students work at their own pace. And, as anyone who’s ever worked with children knows, kids work at various speeds and abilities. I wanted my students to be productive from the minute they walk into the library media center, to the minute they walk out. So, Free Time Activities seemed like the perfect solution! I created a chart in the corner of my room that colorfully displayed the various tasks that a student could choose from once they’ve completed their required assignments and/or work for that day. These activities range from blogging and reading to building with Legos and K’nex. Additionally, I implemented a makerspace area to help make many of these tasks available. It is simply a shelving unit filled with any item that could possibly help create, such as yarn, pipe cleaners, tape, markers, and paper tubes. Certain Free Time Activities are also supported by “challenge cards.” For example, the Lego station and K’nex kit come with baskets filled with cards with a number of challenges written on them; and the makerspace area has a basket of STEAM challenges. The students have really enjoyed having the right to choose and navigate how they want to explore and learn (see right photos above).
So far I’ve loved the changes I’ve implemented this year, and I can’t wait to see how it evolves with time. I recommend giving it a try in your own classrooms and seeing how you can make room for activities like these. Take that risk! I’m sure you’ll be amazed with the wonderful results!