Authentic Learning is Key
Over the past semester, I’ve been giving quite a bit of thought to how PBL and Inquiry-Based Learning fit together. This past week, I’ve started to think more about how PBL and Inquiry-Based Learning can be implemented in STEAM. Earlier today, I had a Eureka moment when I came to the realization that the commonality between STEAM, transformative Technology Integration, PBL and Inquiry-Based Learning is authentic learning. When developing my curriculum STEAM I focused on cross-curricular 9 week long projects that tied together students’ learning from all their subjects. Sometimes, I felt my projects offered authentic learning experiences.
For example, one project that I feel was one of my stronger projects was “Taking Learning to New Heights with Power Up 3.0”. My third graders were reading about the Wright Brothers in reading, so in STEAM I wanted to teach them about the scientific principles behind flight. This project was made possible by a grant from the Beaver County Educational Trust. With the money they provided me, I was able to purchase a class set of Power Up 3.0s. These devices connect to an iPad (or smartphone) through Bluetooth. The device has a rudder and a propeller on it that you attach to a paper airplane. The app on the iPad provides students with a flight simulator experience and allows them to control the rudder and propeller. Additionally, I had a pilot come in to speak to the third grades. I also had several high school students who were studying at the CCBC Aviation Academy come in to help my students fly their paper airplanes. The BCET honored me with the Exemplary Mini-Grant award for this project and subsequently named me Beaver County Teacher of the Year. The BCET also nominated me for Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year 2019, and I am honored to have been named a Semi-Finalist. As I reflect on my past teaching practices, however, I realize not all of my projects had strong, real-world connections.