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TST STEAM Lab

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The 2018-2019 school year saw a new addition to the TST campus – the STEAM Lab. (STEAM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math.) Students from Pre-K to 5th grade come to the lab once a week to explore, build, create, and (hopefully) learn. Even students from Early Childhood, Middle School, and Upper School have access to the lab. Early Childhood has Open Lab for an hour once a week, and the teachers check out materials to take back to the classroom. Middle School students visit to design amusement parks, program robots, and design projects to print on the FlashForge 3D printers. Upper School students visit to 3D print…their designs, design and print vinyl stickers for their Chromebooks on the Cricut Maker, fly drones, or learn to solder.

As the year progresses, these students learn about the engineering design process. They work on circuits, they build banana pianos, and they program robots. Their vocabularies start to include new words such as gravity, force, open and closed circuits, and coding. One of the favorite lessons last year was one where first-graders built Lego ramps of different sizes and then made predictions as to how far their cars would travel on each ramp. Next, they recorded their results and compared them using graphs. Finally, they added more bricks to their cars and tested to see if they could increase the distance traveled. Naturally, lots of other objects made their way down the ramps as they continued to experiment on their own.

Students at all grade levels are building robots and learning to program them to perform different tasks. The robots can do things such as sing, flash different color lights, pull and push objects, and even lift things. They will collaborate with other students by combining two robots and programming them to pull heavier objects. While doing so, they practice skills such as sequencing, calculating angles, measuring distances, and one of the most important skills of all – not giving up if something fails to work the first time. Troubleshooting is an extremely important skill; sometimes I have to bite my tongue when a student can’t figure something out right away. The teacher in me wants to immediately jump in and show him or her what he or she is doing wrong, but in the long run, I know it is best to let the student figure it out. Many times students will turn to a classmate for advice. Learning to explain what is wrong in the right words is another crucial skill – defining the problem. Students often realize their mistakes while on this step The lightbulb in their heads suddenly goes off, and their eyes light up!

The STEAM Lab has been a welcome addition to our campus. This summer, using funds from generous donations at the TST Gala Fund- A- Cause, the lab was able to expand. Additional circuitry sets, 3D Printers, robots and more were purchased. Dry erase tables, workbenches, and a Lego wall now make the lab a more inviting and functional place. Another exciting development will be the new TST Outdoor Learning Center. A greenhouse has been ordered, vegetable and herb beds are being installed, and picnic tables will soon arrive. The garden area will also feature The Worm Firm (vermiculture) and two Dual Composting Bins. Students at all levels will have lessons in the garden, and we hope to be able to use some of what we grow in the TST kitchen.

This looks to be an exciting year of growth for Trinity. So many new things are happening, and the students seem to be so excited about learning. I look forward to continuing to work in the STEAM Lab and helping to get the Outdoor Learning Center up and running. I truly think I have the perfect job. The look in the eyes of a child who has suddenly made a discovery or accomplished what he or she thought was impossible is the reason I love teaching at Trinity. Plus, who wouldn’t want to spend a few hours a day playing with LEGOs, robots, and PlayDoh?

Mellissa McCreary
TST Curriculm Director

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