I run the STEAM lab on my campus, where the students come twice a month to engage in engineering design challenges. Most of the challenges have a real world application, the most popular among the first graders being “I dropped my keys down the drain (a shipping tube)! Build something (out of this random pile of stuff) to help me get them out! This activity correlates with their science unit on properties of matter & magnetism. Daniel Pink’s video about motivation touches on the factors of challenge, mastery, and making a contribution in his point about what motivates highly skilled people to create products in their free time for FREE. It’s about having a purpose. All of the STEAM activities involve challenge and mastery, but I’ve noticed that they enjoy the activities even more when the challenge is framed with a greater purpose, such as helping retrieve the keys.
Further reflection got me thinking about why the students love coming to the STEAM lab so much. Aside from my sparkling personality, it’s because they get to PLAY, although I had never thought of it that way before. They are offered a game (challenge) to complete within certain limitations (time constraints & available materials).
I’m realizing that my project based learning plan is somewhat an extension of what I do in STEAM. Creating a learning environment conducive to natural inquisitiveness, providing opportunities for each student to pursue their passion, and offering students the chance to make real contributions to their school and community are the dreams that I am laying at the feet of my coworkers. I pray they tread lightly.
TED. (2010, May 24). Bring on the learning revolution! | Sir Ken Robinson [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9LelXa3U_I&feature=youtu.be
R. (2010, April 1). RSA ANIMATE: Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc&feature=youtu.be
TEDx Talks. (2012, September 12). A New Culture of Learning, Douglas Thomas at TEDxUFM [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lM80GXlyX0U&feature=youtu.be