School Spotlight: SEA
If you drive by the School of Engineering and Arts in Golden Valley, you will likely see students outside learning. The school integrates STEAM or science, technology, engineering, arts and math into the curriculum and encourages students to ask questions and have a voice in what they wish to learn.
“The staff are committed to teach with a different lens and that lens is integration. So how can we cover the standards and meet our objectives every day,” says Cara Rieckenberg, program coordinator. “Oftentimes education gets a bad rap that we educate the wonder out of kids. But they are going to leave [the SEA school] wondering and wanting to know more.”
On the day CCX News visited the campus, fifth graders were observing a chicken named “Nugget” to see what she is likely to eat. Before students conducted this observation, they outlined notes, made guesses, and carefully measured how much of each type of feed went into the chicken’s pen. This teaches the scientific method, but it also is a hands-on approach to learning.
“It makes it much more relevant,” says fifth-grade teacher Carrie Ehn. “Kids learn and it just sticks more.”
Nearby, fourth graders were getting a closer look at what is swimming in a collected sample of water.
“They are practicing looking at macroinvertebrates,” says teacher Eric Wulff.
Wulff is preparing for the students to collect water from a nearby creek and collect data for Hennepin County that measures the health of local waterways.
“In the big picture we are looking at how much pollution is in our water sources,” he said.
Inside the school, the focus on science and innovation is just as robust. First graders are playing a computer coding game to try to help the battery-operated mouse catch the cheese on a game board.
“We test it, test it, and test it,” says Carrie Casey, a first-grade teacher. “Right now they are working on coding, which is a kind of computer language we teach just like we teach reading and math.”
Fifth graders are the ones who get to complete a program on the school’s 3-D printer. They create a design using software for the printer and then make it. All through the learning process they must troubleshoot problems and create solutions.
“There’s creativity involved and there’s problem solving,” says Brian Witzke, library and media specialist. “When they have an idea to put something together, it doesn’t just happen, they have to make it happen.”
At the SEA school, the critical thinking and problem solving components are a part of the educational model that teachers strive to incorporate into every area of study. Instead of relying on methods that fall under the ’21st century learning model,’ they strive to push beyond to what’s next on the educational horizon. The students learn to keep trying to solve problems.
“They have grit and perseverance that they know it’s okay to fail,” says Principal Heather Hanson. “They keep trying until they find the answers they are seeking.”
And how does the SEA school celebrate Halloween? By dropping pumpkins off the roof as part of an experiment of course! Students must first create packaging to try to protect the pumpkin from breaking during the fall.