Last updated: August 01. 2013 5:01PM - 1539 Views

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Elkin educators are getting special training this week to prepare for the roll-out of STEAM.

Members of the three city schools met in the media center at Elkin High Monday through Friday for their introduction to the newly announced STEAM initiative, and the Project Based Learning, PBL, that is fundamental in the teaching changes.

PBL training ran from Monday through Wednesday with STEAM-focused training Thursday and Friday.

STEAM is an acronym for “Science and Technology integrated through Engineering and the Arts, all based in Mathematical elements.”

The new initiative focuses on teaching core concepts throughout the schools and not separating each subject from the others. Group projects and teamwork are at the heart of the program, which attempts to prepare students for the requirements of the modern workplace.

STEAM also moves away from “teaching for the test,” a practice teachers commonly face where the sole goal of the school year is to prepare students for the end-of-grade, EOG, or end-of-curriculum, EOC, tests students must complete.

Elkin City Schools is the first school system in the state to implement the system of learning, prompting school officials to bring in Georgette Yakman to train teachers in the new methods involved in the initiative.

Yakman is the developer of the national STEAM initiative, something she designed during her career as a full-time teacher. Yakman spoke to teachers and explained how to best introduce STEAM when students return to school this fall.

At the heart of her message was the use of projects to make book work tangible to the students. Students will create lasting projects like a video or model rather than just write a report or complete a worksheet.

Some teachers worry that increased projects will place a burden on an already tight budget for schools. Yakman said the program does not have to cost the schools a lot of money for the added benefits.

Yakman suggested a “duct tape and cardboard program.” In her classes she asked students to make projects out of scrap material found at home and things like duct tape, something she says keeps the teacher from spending a large amount of money but still gives the student something to take pride in.

Yakman also told teachers to break down the mistaken idea that “teachers aren’t people.” She told Elkin faculty to introduce themselves at the beginning of school and talk about their hobbies, personal stories and background. When a student sees you as a “real person,” Yakman said, they are more likely to work better in the class.

Teachers were told they could not teach everyone the same material the same way - differences in learning capability and style prevent this holistic approach to education. Yakman said STEAM comes the closest to giving teachers a way to teach every student equally effectively.

Companies frequently say job applicants do not have the skills to work in groups, according to Yakman. STEAM teaches students that working on your own is not ideal or practical. Teachers were taught the same lesson by Yakman, who told teachers to work as a group instead of shutting their classroom doors and only teaching their individual subjects.

Teachers too often teach “silo disciplines,” Yakman said. Like a grain silo, one subject is in the classroom. It can’t get out, and no other subject can get in.

Her approach is for teachers to collaborate and spread the core principles of math, science, history, art, and others across the campus.

Physical education teachers can explain historical battles by using a football or soccer field to demonstrate military maneuvers. History teachers can use the fine arts found throughout time periods to help students learn.

Elkin teachers are among the first to implement such a style of teaching. When students come back to school August 26 they can expect a more comprehensive, and likely enjoyable, experience in the classroom thanks to the training the teachers have received this week.

To contact Taylor Pardue email him at tpardue@civitasmedia.com, or call 336-835-1513 ext. 15.

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