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References

Framework for 21st century learning. Partnership for 21st century learning. Retrieved from http://www.p21.org/about-us/p21-framework

other STF links

“What Did I Get Myself Into?” (Feature)

All Kids are Geniuses and Genius Hour Proves It! (ETnet)

STREAMing Through Summer (PEN)

Vision. Blessing. STEAM!

Lutheran schools have always excelled at providing a foundation of faith and knowledge for students. Now Lutheran schools have the opportunity to provide that strong foundation along with 21st century knowledge and skills that our students’ futures demand.Innovations in education come and go. Paper, pencils, calculators, personal computers, tablets. Each of the previous items represent a movement or innovation in education. Looking back at those innovations is easy. Looking ahead to innovations that will make the next leap in student learning is much more difficult. At St. John’s Lutheran School in Orange, Calif., we believe that the next innovations in education will be through STEAM.

Science, technology, engineering, arts, and math have been critical components of the learning philosophy at St. John’s for nearly a decade. In 2008, the middle school began a 1:1 laptop program where all sixth through eighth grade students would learn with a personal device. A few years later, grades K–5 deployed iPads and Chromebooks 1:2 to create a learning environment rich in active learning and infused with technology. Having the devices in hand is now only half of the equation; creating a physical space for STEAM areas of learning has become necessary for student learning success.

The Partnership for 21st Century Learning outlines essential outcomes for students entering and matriculating through our Lutheran schools. The P21 Learning Framework includes both outcomes and support systems that put the focus of student learning both on future initiatives and on foundational learning (3Rs). Lutheran schools have always excelled at providing a foundation of faith and knowledge for students. Now Lutheran schools have the opportunity to provide that strong foundation along with 21st century knowledge and skills that our students’ futures demand.

Vision

St. John’s believes that physical spaces transform learning. In 2017, the school invested in Active Learning Environments: Three classrooms and two commons areas that were equipped with various pieces of functional learning equipment that encourage students to move their bodies, communicate with peers and teachers, and be creative. These physical learning spaces take learning from traditional desks and chairs to movable and flexible spaces. Students can actively learn through collaboration and communication inside and outside of the classroom.

For students to be successful in life and career skills, they need to be successful in learning and innovation skills.The vision for active learning, technology-rich curriculum and pedagogy, and a foundation of faith-infused academic success led St. John’s to redefine student learning success. For students to be successful in life and career skills, they need to be successful in learning and innovation skills (4Cs): Creativity and innovation, Critical thinking and problem solving, Communication, and Collaboration were all critical components in the development of St. John’s STEM Lab. The 4Cs are also core guidelines for teaching and learning on campus. This was and is the vision for the STEM Lab.

The STEM Lab at St. John’s is currently under construction and will be completed for the start of the 2018–2019 school year. All 675+ kindergarten through eighth grade students will be able to learn in the lab. We strategically developed three distinct areas for maximum student learning and engagement.

STEM classroom plansSTEM space 1 is the 3D printing lab and conference room. A preliminary version of STEM 1 allowed students to take a concept and bring it to reality. Kindergarten students designed snowflakes and then printed them. Fifth grade students experimented and designed their own bubble wands, 3D printed them, and tested their creations. Bringing concepts to reality is a key aspect of engineering, and this will continue to happen in the 3D printing lab. Collaboration and communication happen at all levels, and this area will provide a quiet space for small group imaginations to run wild!

STEM space 2 is an open concept area that has only standing space. This area has mobile lab carts that students can use for creating, designing, or experimenting with anything they or their teachers can dream up. This space is also equipped with a large flat screen display and individual whiteboards for collaboration and communication.

STEM space 3 is a direct teaching area combined with a mobile workspace where students can learn directly from a teacher, think critically as a team, or work individually on projects. All tables and chairs are on wheels, which can facilitate a teacher or student’s desire to teach/learn in a space that is unique to their needs at the moment. STEM spaces 2 and 3 can also be combined by opening up the folding glass wall and creating a large group space for multiple classes to learn and collaborate at the same time.

classroom furniture

Ministry Minded

Students will occupy the STEM Lab throughout the school day, but St. John’s Church and School wanted to collaborate on learning and ministry. With that in mind, we configured the STEM Lab in such a way that all furniture is on wheels, and it is easily maneuverable to allow for large or small group Bible study, play-based Bible storytelling, or Sunday school activities that require an area larger than a typical classroom. The unique furnishings (exclusively provided by Steelcase) allow for adult and child friendly seating for learning.

Adult ministries may also use various spaces in the STEM Lab for large group functions as well as video recording. Installed along one wall will be a green, blue, and white screen. The various options will allow for anyone on campus to use the backdrops for ministry video production that will carry our Gospel message digitally.

Blessings

God has worked in many miraculous ways along this journey. Specifically, several ministry moves facilitated the creation of the STEM Lab on St. John’s campus. First, two legacy gifts financed the entire project. Second, St. John’s Church purchased an adjacent office building that allowed for the STEM Lab space to become available to the school (it was previously the business offices). Third, generous school and church families made it a priority to support the vision for 21st century learning on campus and provided funding for equipping the space. Financing, planning, and executing a project like this takes more than hours of work; it takes a step of faith, which God has truly blessed!

STEAM Forward

Differentiated instruction, individual and varied assessment practices, active learning, and diverse educational experiences all play a part in excellent teaching and learning! Each one enhances the other and provides for a strong learning foundation.Science, technology, engineering, arts, and math all form a bond of foundational learning that will prepare students for the future. These critical areas of learning are also grounded in teacher pedagogy that relates to key outcomes for our students and staff. Differentiated instruction, individual and varied assessment practices, active learning, and diverse educational experiences all play a part in excellent teaching and learning! Each one enhances the other and provides for a strong learning foundation.

As other campus leaders and I look forward, we see a bright future for student faith and learning through our STEAM initiatives. Our students study God’s Word in Christian Faith and Life (CFL) class every day. This lays a firm foundation for all other learning. With robust fine arts offerings (general music, visual art, and vocal music classes) each week, students have the opportunity to learn critical life and career-ready skills that will prepare them for high school, college, and beyond, while being prepared spiritually through instruction in God’s Word.

The St. John’s STEM Lab and STEAM programs are more than classrooms and curriculum. They are key components to student success now and for years to come. Praise God for His provision and blessings, as Lutheran education continues to meet the needs of all learners today, tomorrow, and forever!

Jake Hollatz is principal at St. John’s Lutheran School in Orange, Calif.