Bullis Charter School’s STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) initiative, a staple at the 10-year-old school, integrates art into the sciences.
“Our art specialist has worked closely across grade levels and across disciplines to design integrated units of study since he began working here nine years ago,” said Superintendent/Principal Wanny Hersey.
This year, according to Hersey, the charter school has taken STEAM to a new level with the addition of the FabLab and MakerSpace, which offer all students access to the latest technologies and the opportunity to learn from experts in their fields.
On the school’s second site – the Bullis Center for Innovation – Hersey and her staff have implemented a STEAM program designed to support and enhance the traditional grade-level curriculum.
In the sixth grade, for example, students studied early man in social studies, which laid the groundwork for their first design-thinking challenge of the year – creating a topographical map that shows the ideal setting for survival in prehistoric times. After much collaboration among grade-level teachers, the art specialist and the FabLab director, students applied their historical knowledge using their newly acquired 3-D rendering software skills to create prototypes designed to scale by incorporating math standards in the planning stages.
The exploration of early man continued in art, where students studied and re-created cave paintings and stone art, with a goal to deepen their understanding of the historical period.
After completing the design challenge, students wrote a historical fiction narrative about early man.
Sixth-grade teacher Dan Gross said the results impressed him.
“I was blown away by how well the students mastered the content,” he said. “Paper and pencil learning can only go so deep, but this design challenge allowed all students to be engaged in their own learning, and they got to do that in a way that prepares them for life in the 21st century.”