Langdon Area School Distirct holds STEAM Academy event for students

The Langdon Area School District held a STEAM Academy on Thursday, March 17 at the high school and a mini Steam session for elementary students.

Posted on 3/26/16

By Melissa Anderson

STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math and is a model of 21st century learning that prepares students to be competitive in the work-force and in life.

“It guides our students to be critical thinkers in an ever-changing, digital world,” Melissa Hiltner, the Instructional Coach at LASD, said “STEAM skills are vital for success in the 21st century and critical to the our collective future.“

The committee that made the STEAM Academy possible for the LASD students were Art Instructor Mindi Lill, LASD Superindent Mark Mindt and Hiltner.  The trio spent many months planning and organizing the four hour event.

“Research shows STEAM skills are transferable and needed in every job sector. STEAM will help students be problem solvers, innovators, inventors and logical thinkers,” Hiltner said.

The Academy consisted of four projects incorporating science, technology, engineering, arts and math into 21st Century learning. Each project was specifically aligned by the North Dakota State Standards in all areas of STEAM. Students in grades 7-12 were placed in small groups with a staff member facilitating each group.  The groups had to use the “4 C’s” which includes: collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creativity. The students were then evaluated on their demonstration of the 4 C’s during their project.

“We wanted our students to think outside of the box, to realize they can be innovators for the future,” Hiltner said, “and it was important for them to work together and learn that not everything can be found on Google when you are problem solving.”

One project was to construct a life-size chair made of cardboard that could hold the weight of a 120 pound person.

“We brought in expert consultations from the community to assist with the projects,” Hiltner said. ”For the cardboard chair project, Adam Lafrenz, owner of Schroeder’s Furniture, and Ryan Wagner, Contractor, came to give expert advice and answer questions from the groups.”

Another project, 3-D perspective drawing, used only masking tape on a large mural. The students that took on this task needed a lot of math skills, including computational thinking and applying geometric methods to solve design problems. The science skills were just as important and included developing models, evaluating perspective, analyzing and interpreting. Tatiana Davis, owner of Langdon Floral, and Adam Johnston  were the guest consultants who helped with the perspective drawing.

The other STEAM projects included creating musical instruments and performing on them and creating paper rollercoasters using a marble to track speed, length, loops and turns. Patricia Barta, retired Langdon Area Teachers, assisted students with the paper rollercoasters. Hilari Pletcher and Lindsey Melhoff gave musical expertise to the musical instruments group.

“It was wonderful to have the involvement from our local community,” Hiltner stated. ”We were able to show the students that the skills they were using today are the same skills needed when they are in the workforce someday.”

Prior to the STEAM Academy, Mindi Lill talked to the students about the brain research behind the STEAM movement, specifically what each side of the brain does.

“The left side of the brain is the math, logic, science, intellectual said, which we use a lot,” Lill explained, “Our right side of the brain is the creativity part meaning arts, music, controlling emotion and creativity.”

For the STEAM Academy, students would use both sides of their brains to take the factual, logical ideas and integrate them with creativity and innovation to create something extraordinary.

“Usually, we only need to use one side of our brain in many activities,” Lill stated.

The brain power building STEAM model is used in most jobs and businesses across the world. At some point, individuals will need to work with people, solving problems together to create something great for the benefit of a company or business or even their own farm one day.

“It takes people who think ‘outside of the box’, using both sides of their brain to figure out a better, more efficient and cost effective way to work and earn money,” Hiltner stated. “This is what we want to see our students doing – thinking critically to solve problems in today’s world while working together.”

Recognizing the strengths of each student prior to the STEAM Academy  allowed the students to “shine in their area of strength” by interacting with one another to solve real problems and be innovators of the 21st Century.

“The students were not sitting listening to lecture or working on a worksheet,” Hiltner stated.

Hiltner explained that another reason for the emphasis on STEAM activites is that the Internet can sometimes be used as a “crutch” for students to look up answers easily.

“The internet has many benefits, however, we want our students to excel in critical thinking skills so they can reason for themselves and make judgements that are crucial to their success in school and in life,” Hiltner said.

At the end of the Academy, the students met back in the gym and each group shared about the process, the struggles and the end results.  The learning for the day was invaluable!

According to Beth Steckler, STEAM Program Administrator from the Department of Public Instruction in Bismarck who visited Langdon to observe the STEAM Academy, Langdon Area Schools is one of the first schools across the state to implement this new, innovative approach to learning.

“I am so very impressed with the work that Melissa and Mindi put into this. I am impressed with the support provided by administrators. I was impressed by Langdon students. You have such a great group of students. I was impressed that all students were involved. I was impressed by the community involvement.  Kudos to Langdon! Thank you for all you do!” Steckler said in a letter to LASD following the event.

The proof of the success of the STEAM Academy is not only in the successfully completed STEAM projects, congratulations, or press coverage but from the very enthusiastic students who enjoyed the activities, some of whom shared the following comments on their day enrolled in STEAM

“It was a new and exciting activity. Working with new people was both fun and challenging. I hope we get to do it again!  …Hope it’s not too late in the school year.” Rylan Rueger, freshman at LAHS, “My favorite part was making the cardboard chair. I got to use the hot glue gun. It was a nice change from the regular classes. A member of the group did a good job designing it and I got to help build it.” Caleb Hetler, 7th grade at LAHS, “School should be always learning new things and being with people you don’t really talk to!  I hope we can do this again!” Shelby Buckle, Sophomore at LAHS, “Thank you for a really great day today at school!  It was really fun!”  Jacob Delvo, Sophomore at LAHS, “The project was good because it made us work together as a team. I also liked it because they provided the group with input that helped us persevere through problems.” Kellie Hetler, Junior at LAHS, “Best. Day. Ever.” Curtis Parsons, 7th grade at LAHS, “I want to be an Engineer!” Langdon Area first grader, after looking at the STEAM projects.