STEM & STEAM at Laurel
Our STEAM Initiative provides a myriad of experiences designed to allow students to make cross-disciplinary connections, and to develop the skills necessary for them to be:
- Engaged citizens
- Competent evaluators of information
- Capable problem solvers
- Innovative thinkers and creators
Interdisciplinary learning is a hallmark of Laurel School’s academic programming from Pre-Primary through Grade 12. As a national leader in STEM, Laurel School is thinking strategically about how the skillset of an artist overlaps with and enhances skills mastered by professionals in traditional STEM fields. Where practical, our students are offered the opportunity to observe, to think critically, to interpret, to appreciate precision and scale and to communicate from the perspectives of a scientist, visual artist, mathematician, computer scientist, performance artist and engineer. Just this fall, more than 600 visitors attended Laurel’s second annual “STEAM InKNOWvation Festival” for a taste of STEAM through 40 hands-on, interactive activities. Below are just a few examples of our interdisciplinary programming that incorporate the elements of STEAM.
In Pre-K, “M” is for Monarchs!
Each fall, little girls and boys in Ms. Marshall and Ms. Gallagher’s Pre-Kindergarten class discuss big concepts in the life cycle of the monarch butterfly. As they watch tiny caterpillars feeding and growing day-to-day, they learn that they hatch from eggs and then eat themselves full with nutritious leaves. Eager eyes observe the chrysalises in anticipation of the end of a two-week metamorphosis. This thematic unit engages students as they consider the perils that their young caterpillars face during their long migration to Mexico. Students create their own artwork based on observations of a chrysalis and coat their classroom tree branches with vibrant wings after viewing trees covered in resting butterflies! They build fine motor skills, solidify concepts and learn to observe just like scientists and artists do! Monarch observations also allow students to investigate butterfly anatomy – from its antennae to its tiny legs and stunning wings! Students learn how to tag butterflies for Monarch Watch and gain an understanding of the importance of helping professional entomologists gather information that can help protect the butterflies. This unforgettable experience comes full-circle as students watch their butterflies hatch and finally release them just in time for the butterflies' long journey southward.
The Seventh Grade “Digs in” with STEAM
Interdisciplinary initiatives are central to the Middle School experience at Laurel School. Each year, the Seventh Grade class has an extraordinary two-week interdisciplinary unit, called The Dig. It is grounded in archaeology, and includes challenging “field work” centered at our 140-acre Butler Campus. Using professional archaeological tools, our Seventh Graders work collaboratively, excavating, recording and measuring their own archaeological finds for later analysis. Students learn to illustrate the artifact shards they find using the system of lithic illustration developed in the 1980’s by archaeologist and illustrator Lucile Addington and still in use today. The girls are presented with the challenges conservationists and restorers are met with when they try to reconstruct artifacts from piles of assorted pot shards and chips. These intrepid budding archaeologists develop scientific skills, apply math skills, practice reconstructing clay artifacts and study the culture of a local Woodland Indian tribe from the sixteenth century.
The Art and Science of MayTerm in the Upper School
At Laurel, we know that STEM/STEAM education is most powerful when girls focus on solving problems in a collaborative atmosphere and when the class is engaged in critical thinking and making connections between what they discover and how the world works around them. Our Upper School’s MayTerm provides a two-week period where normal classes are suspended, offering girls the freedom to choose novel topics to explore along with invested faculty. Courses such as the Science & Art of Glassmaking allow students to explore the chemical and material properties of glass, to observing glassmaking and to create their own beautiful glass flowers and stained glass pieces. In Stage Combat, the physics of stage movement are explored in tangible (yet painless!) ways. Each of these courses highlights community connections by including travel to local artists and artworks or performances in and around metro Cleveland. Immersion in STEAM offers a unique inroad for engaging girls at the intersection of STEM and the Arts in their local community.
Questions about STEAM/STEM? Contact:
Upper School Science Department Chair