STEAM explores integration of project-based learning in the classroom

Kendall McGowan, Managing News Editor

Water Tower
Freshman Susie Steinfield builds a model water tower in her geometry class. Students constructed the water towers as practice for the miniature golf course. Photo provided by Ron Taylor.

 

Geometry and physics classes will dedicate some of their time this spring to designing and building mini-golf courses.

A group of teachers called the “STEAM group,” one of the BHS 2020 working committees, have been exploring the idea of integrating project-based learning into their curriculums for the past two years. The goal is to demonstrate to students how combining the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math can improve students’ learning.

“We’re looking for a way for students to see and appreciate that multiple subjects can work together to create a project,” math teacher Ron Taylor said. “Really that the subjects could complement one another to reach a common goal.”

Students taking geometry will design the golf courses in their geometry classes and then build them in groups in their physics classes after taking the physics MCAS. Each physics class will build about one hole, with different students working on different aspects of the hole at the same time, according to Taylor.

In the past, some physics teachers have chosen to lead group projects after the MCAS in June, which was part of the reason behind this curriculum addition, according to Mathematics Curriculum Coordinator Joshua Paris. Geometry classes will now budget time before the physics MCAS to complete the design portion of the project.

The golf courses will be built with materials paid for by a grant that the STEAM group received. They will later be displayed in the Pavilion of the Schluntz Gymnasium, where visitors will be able to play miniature golf for a small fee. According to Taylor, the STEAM group aims for all of the golf courses to fit into a different theme each year; this year’s theme has not been decided yet.

Physics and engineering teacher Aubrey Love said that this curriculum change will remain in years to come.

“I think this event is a permanent change,” he said. “I think it is always a work in progress so it will get better and better and hopefully, within the next couple years it gets to the point where it’s a really polished product. I definitely think it is something that will stick around and stay.”

Taylor said that one of the goals of the curriculum change is to ultimately show students that there is more to their educations than questions with yes-or-no answers.

“We’re trying to help students see that there can be an idea, a concept that’s placed in front of them, and they have multiple options,” Taylor said. “There isn’t going to be one correct solution, and you have to take everything you’ve learned from multiple classes and use it to be successful.”

Kendall McGowan can be contacted at bhs[email protected]

Sam Klein contributed reporting for this article.