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Featured Teachers: October 2014
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Pine Grove STEAM Team
8th Grade, Trans-Disciplinary
Pine Grove Middle School
East Syracuse Minoa Central School District

The STEAM Team is a trans-disciplinary group of eighth grade teachers at Pine Grove Middle School in the East Syracuse-Minoa Central School District. The team is focused on creating 21st century learning opportunities by integrating technology and engineering principles into Science, Math, English Language Arts and Social Studies. They are currently in the fourth year of implementation working in this framework. Team members include Jason Fahy, Physical Science; Kevin Michaud, Social Studies; Tina Oakley, Math; Nicole Petranchuk, Writing; Tim Patterson, Technology; Taylor Hunt, Literature; Scott Porter, Special Education; and Diandra Western, Teaching Assistant.

What are some of the innovative ways you are integrating technology into your curriculum?
The STEAM Team views students' interaction with technology as an opportunity for them to appropriately participate in a society that increasingly relies on digital literacy. They use various tools to enhance student communications and to assist student with problem solving activities. As a way to provide student immediate feedback on meeting team classroom behavior expectations they regularly use ClassDojo. They use online tools such as Socrative and Quizlet as a way to extend time for learning beyond the regular school day. We find that Twitter and Remind are useful tools to keep the community informed on student experiences. Much of our classes are enhanced by the use of Google tools, such as Blogger, Drive and SketchUp.

To facilitate the use of technology, our simulated research facility, Pine Grove Laboratories (PGL), is established and maintained throughout the school day by our students. PGL serves as the venue for trans-disciplinary project based learning and provides opportunities to work with community partners. The use of technology is integral in the success of these experiences. Students begin the school year by establishing a professional online identity which is used to hire the students into specific roles during these projects. PGL’s Nanotech facility is an example of a project that has students utilizing technology to create solutions to a problem. Students are focused on utilizing robotic manufacturing capabilities to meet the challenges created by a rapidly changing world. Our finished products have students constructing and programing automated assembly lines using Lego Mindstorms kits to produce semiconductor wafer prototypes. Students build on the skills in this project to work in teams to design, construct and deploy ROVERS that land on a simulated Martian surface, navigate to an area of interest and collect a variety of data on a rock specimen. Once deployed, the only interaction between the ROVER and Mission Control is data sent back via live feeds from on-board cameras and instruments. The student’s year ends with a project focused on energy solutions. Students create energy divisions of Pine Grove Laboratories that investigate energy sources to power an urban area. These energy companies present their findings to a town hall meeting run by a student-created government. Simultaneously, other students act in a media capacity and communicate the project via blogs and other outlets using video broadcasts.

Visit www.steam-ed.org to learn more about the team and www.pinegrovelabs.org to investigate student problem-based learning experiences.

How have students benefitted from your technology integration initiatives?
Integrating technology is an essential component of our framework. This approach has created an environment that produces a more engaged student who sees their learning connected to a purpose and wider audience. Students exit the team better prepared to work in collaborative groups, solve problems, communicate their understandings, and demonstrate the ability to adapt to many environments.

Read more about the STEAM Team.

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