BULLHEAD CITY — STEAM is everywhere, even when you’re not looking for it.
Science, technology, engineering, arts, and math are concepts that apply to everyone, said Sonia Roy.
Even primary school children.
Roy, librarian at Coyote Canyon Elementary School, led a session called “Easy Peasy STEAM in the Primary Classroom” Friday during Colorado River Schools’ professional development day activities.
She had her “students” — who were in fact educators — try out a few activities, as she discussed STEAM resources with them.
Their first task was to create their favorite fruits out of Lego building blocks.
She said that she sometimes will ask children to build their names from the pieces.
Roy said she doesn’t make the students dismantle their own creations.
Roy told her PD class that STEAM activities can “bridge the gap between the two sides of the brain,” the logical left side and the creative right side.
She said that when right-brained and left-brained students work together, it can be for the benefit of both.
Roy told the teachers that they are regularly using STEAM in their professional lives.
“Teachers are engineers,” she said. “Finding ways to solve problems every day. You develop plans to teach the standards and test to see if your approach worked.”
Math, she said, is visible in everything humans do.
After the Lego construction, Roy had each of the teachers create a paper “flextangle.”
“It’s a fidget toy that makes no noise,” she said. “And if it gets accidentally hurled across the room, it’s not gonna hurt anybody.”
Roy said that the flextangle can be made by students of all ages, though the youngest might need help with the series of folds involved.
The students also color the paper before folding it, Roy said, adding that older students can be encouraged to try more complicated designs.
Roy said she typically shows an instructional video to her students on the flextangle and makes one herself as they’re working on their own, so they can see how easy it is.
She said the flextangle project is good for groups that include mixed grade levels or Flex Friday or after-school programs.
Roy said that fun STEAM activities can be confidence builders for some students.
“You can see some of the students who struggle with every academic skill succeed,” she said. “And watch them build incredible things.”
Each teacher also made a paper whirly copter, which Roy said can help children learn about aerodynamics. She said a teacher might challenge students to see if they can make adjustments to the design to make their copters spin faster or stay more stable during descent.
Courtney Radcliffe, a kindergarten teacher at Valentine Elementary School in Truxton, said she found Roy’s presentation helpful. She said she picked up some new techniques at professional development day that she will take back to her classroom.
“I love learning new techniques to impact my students’ learning,” Radcliffe said.
She also attended sessions on station management and strategies for helping struggling readers.
Anna Boyd, who teaches AP calculus and honors geometry at Mohave High School, led a session on using Teachers Pay Teachers and PowerPoint to create interactive activities. She said that the items she discussed can be made applicable to any curriculum and any grade level.
She led them through a short tutorial on an editable template that can be used to create projects she said will keep students engaged.
More than 400 educators from the Colorado River Union High School District and the Bullhead City, Mohave Valley, Topock and Valentine elementary school districts attended, along with teachers from Montessori Preparatory Academy and Young Scholar’s Academy, student-teachers from Northern Arizona University and CRUHSD students in education professions classes.
Keynote speaker Michelle Doherty, named 2017 Arizona Teacher of the Year by the Arizona Educational Foundation, spoke about the importance of creating genuine caring relationships with students.
The day’s events ended with a giveaway of gift cards in a drawing.
The grand prizes for the teachers who attracted the most tax-credit donations for CRUHSD and BHCESD programs, went to Mohave teachers Noel King and Kory Burgess. Between them, they’ll get a vacation for two in Hawaii and a cruise for two, paid for by governing board members.
BHCESD and CRUHSD Supt. Riley Frei said the day went quite well, given the amount of learning going on, as well as the opportunity for teachers to have fun.
“Enthusiasm is probably the most critical thing,” Frei said.