From ELA to STEAM

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So much has changed during my hiatus from blogging this spring! I have changed home addresses, schools, and — most significantly — my job description. After four years of teaching second grade at a small, rural school in Maine, I am transitioning into a role as a Pre-K to 8th grade STEM teacher at a slightly-larger, rural school in Maine.

For longtime readers of this blog or anyone who knows me, it’s a bit startling that, come September, I’ll be taking on a specialized science and technology position. After all, I double-majored in English and education, have an M.Ed in Language and Literacy, and am a voracious reader. Yet, as I look back on my four years of traditional classroom teaching, I can clearly see myself transforming — at first gradually and then quite rapidly — into a STEM teacher.

This transition began when I recognized that my students had an innate interest in science and that traditional reading and writing instruction could easily be encompassed within and made more meaningful when embedded in science (and social studies) content and activities. By my second year of teaching, I had largely given up on the traditional “literacy block” in favor of specific literacy instruction that occurred within the context of our science explorations. While many elementary school teachers lament not having enough time for science instruction, with this thematic approach, I was soon spending one-third and then more than one-half of our day on rich scientific activities that incorporated multiple subject areas.

In my third year teaching, I won a grant that allowed me to purchase Lego robotics kits and other computer programming technology for my classroom/school. While watching my students tinker with technology, I recognized that they instinctively began applying all of the Habits of Mind that we also spent a significant amount of our time discussing and practicing. They began cooperating on groupwork, inventing multiple ideas to problems, persisting — essentially doing all of the things that I believe lead to meaningful and lasting learning. I became obsessed with planning our engineering activities and found them to increasingly be the perfect practice zone for all of the skills and habits that I wanted my students to possess before concluding our time together.

And now, planning those STEM challenges that will foster critical thinking is going to be my full-time job. I am incredibly excited about the scope of this role — providing STEM experiences for all 400 students in our school — and the freedom that I will have to build a program that is responsive to student interests and our ever-changing world. Because I love teaching all of the subjects in a thematic context, I never thought that I would specialize, but now that I have made the leap, I am amazed by the clarity and focus that I’m able to bring to my work — and now, to this blog. I hope you’ll journey with me this year as I dip my toes into becoming Mz. Frizzle!

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One thought on “From ELA to STEAM

  1. Norah July 23, 2018 / 7:19 am

    This is very exciting, Nicole. Congratulations on your new role. I love it when learning is integrated and in context. You will do a wonderful job in this role.

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