December 1, 2016
Online Journal - STEAM Rises at CAA
Rob Parker, Principal, Cariboo Adventist Academy, Williams Lake, BC

CAA has had a lot of change in the 2015/2016 school year. We had two new teachers, Taylor Horniachek and Cody Mills, join the staff. We also have had a new principal, Rob Parker, join the team. Long term staff members, Rachel Rusk and Kent Rusk, left for the Conference office and Deer Lake. In addition to being a school experiencing major change, we have embraced BC’s new curriculum. As part of embracing the new curriculum, we adopted a new trend in education called STEAM.
 
STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math. BC’s new curriculum has an emphasis on project-based and student-led learning. STEAM allows us to focus those projects in a positive way. STEAM projects are student-led from the design phase all the way to how they share their learning. Eventually, we are hoping to have our students designing projects that will reach out to fill needs that the students identify as important.
 
In addition to the STEAM curriculum, we have added what we are calling Creator’s Space. The NAD offered us a chance to participate in curriculum development in STEAM. They were looking for a way to take that curricular trend and give it a needed spiritual element. Creator’s Space is the Adventist take on the Makerspace movement in education. Basically in Creator’s Space we honor the ultimate Creator and recognize that, as beings made in His image, we have that creative spark in us. We started this by bringing robotics into our classrooms.
 
One important aspect which STEAM encourages is the concept of coding. By manipulating the visual input of the robots, students learn to change its programming or its computer code. Development of this skill has been identified within education as a critical skill for our students to acquire. The challenge is how to teach coding in a way that teachers will understand, and from which students will gain benefit. Robotics and STEAM help us develop these skills in a platform of fun, hands on experience.
 
The pictures are Grades 4 and 5 enjoying their robots, called Ozobots, during a recent STEAM class. You’ll also see bridges that they made for their robots to cross over. The students learned basic coding skills to tell the robot where and how to go. These robots will follow the path laid out. Different colours tell the robot to do different things like speed up, slow down, spin, and flash different coloured lights. In the process, the students also learned about how to make a bridge. Working in small groups, they researched different types of bridges. They had to consider the limitations of the robot in their bridge design.  The goal was to get the robot to follow the path they created over the bridge. When they were finished, one excited girl told me, “Mr. Parker, this morning we did no work.” When I asked her what she did, she told me about learning about bridges, learning about the robot, working to create a bridge, and so on. I told her it that it sounded like she learned a lot. She replied, “Oh yes! But it wasn’t like real work, because it was too much fun!” That’s exactly what we want to hear all our students say!
 
Another way we are exploring STEAM in our school is through the development of a STEAM class in grades 8 and 9.  STEAM activities are also being added to our grades 4 through 7 science curriculum. Some of the activities we are looking to do include: experience with new robots, building a robot from scratch, de-construction of computers to learn what makes up a computer, repurposing computer components in a new and purposeful way. STEAM classes often feature activities which recycle materials in unique ways. There are students worldwide who are holding patents for advancements they have invented. It is a new world. Education is looking to impact not only our students, but our churches and communities. We can do this with STEAM, student-led learning and project-based instruction.
 
On behalf of CAA, I would like to send a special shout out to Taylor Horniachek, our grade 4-5 teacher, and Mike Crews, our high school science teacher, for leading out in our discovery of STEAM curriculum. The 2016/2017 school year will see STEAM classes in grades 8 and 9, and STEAM curriculum in grades 4-7.  We also have plans to develop a Creator’s Space in an empty classroom, so classes can come in and experience hands on, project-based curriculum designed to honor our Creator.