Adding the ‘skillful reading’ part to the STEAM curriculum.
CLASS NOTES | by Mark Gura
Each semester, I invite a high value guest to speak with my Technology Integration for School Leaders class, a graduate level course I teach online for Touro College. These conversations represent a powerful turning point for my students as they shift from learning theory to their first glimpse of what they’ll be doing as school and district-based technology leaders.
My guest a few days back was Ms. Aubrey Vance of PITSCO, who privileged us with an in-depth view of STREAM Missions, a powerful, forward-thinking curriculum package structured to hit a remarkable number of truly important student learning goals, both traditional and progressive.
STREAM, by the way, is an acronym that stands for the conceptual framework created to support this resource’s design. Just as STEAM expands STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) with the addition of “A” for the Arts, STREAM goes further by adding an “R” for Reading.
‘…the missions are tackled in small teams who read, discuss and analyze among themselves as they progress through guided inquiry-based experiences.’
As a former central district curriculum director for the New York City public school system I supported all of these subjects. I found STREAM Missions to be exciting and full of promise, as did my students. Together, we’ve been wrapping our minds around how technology can positively transform instruction. Our guest showed us a powerful, multi-faceted example of how inspired instructional design can adeptly address this challenge.
A Key Element
Missions provides so much of what today’s and tomorrow’s educators need in the resources they rely on. These completely cloud-based resource packages (there are 15 themes for each for 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades) are centered in core Science instruction but provide clear connections to the rest of the STEM continuum, as well as Visual Art. I
Importantly, Reading is a key element as the program engages kids in reading content required to carry out and succeed in the high interest missions. This very clear English Language Arts learning connection is carried even further through the Mission Journal part of the program that has students document their progress, providing proof of learning as well as an opportunity for authentic assessment.
There’s much more, as well, like seriously preparing kids for the real world of work and raising their awareness of STEM careers. One key facet of this is that the missions are tackled in small teams who read, discuss and analyze among themselves as they progress through guided inquiry-based experiences. Team members play roles, each of which is crucial to completion of the tasks. This models how work is done in the real world beyond school and ensures that each team member participates and contributes to the group effort. Missions is impressive in how it brings hands-on, project-based curriculum into elementary school, treating younger students to socially interactive and engaging learning experiences.
Education is currently moving forward, both deeper into the Remote Learning model and eventually, after the pandemic and its mandated distancing is behind us, is destined to arrive in new territory. There, teachers will enviably be able to craft for their students instruction that feature choices of activity type, some remote and some in-person, the best modality being the decider.
STREAM Missions struck my class as having the flexibility to be implemented both ways.
The bottom line, though, is that inspiring instructional resources that support the traditional goals of standards-based learning, while at the same time offering deep, meaningful experiences though progressive approaches to pedagogy – discovery-oriented, hands-on, project-based, collaborative, and contextualized in real world scenarios – those are the kinds of programs that will stay with students, whatever the platform they are run on. And so it seems — from the perspective of my class, “Technology Integration for School Leaders!”
Mark Gura is Editor-at-Large for EdTech Digest and author of The Edtech Advocate’s Guide to Leading Change in Schools (ISTE), and co-author of State of EdTech: The Minds Behind What’s Now and What’s Next. He taught at New York City public schools in East Harlem for two decades. He spent five years as a curriculum developer for the central office and was eventually tapped to be the New York City Department of Education’s director of the Office of Instructional Technology, assisting over 1,700 schools serving 1.1 million students in America’s largest school system. In addition to his role at EdTech Digest, he is currently a professor at Touro College.