Lighting Up Learning: An Adventure in STEAM with Stacey Harris at Cottonwood Creek Elementary
Stacey Harris, the STEAM teacher at Cottonwood Creek Elementary, specializes in creating "lightbulb" and “aha” moments with her students. At the end of each class, she engages in a ritual that symbolizes the essence of STEAM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math – by pressing a circular light above which of the STEAM concepts her students engaged in that day.
On a recent Friday afternoon, Harris’ class of Cottonwood Creek third graders were challenged to discover math in everyday life by venturing outside and using technology to capture patterns of numbers. These students took pictures of objects in the playground, in the school garden, on a sensory pathway, trees and more.
Then the students came back inside their classroom and used their iPads to count the number of the items in the photo that they took and determine if this number was an even or odd number.
The goal of the lesson, according to Harris, is that math is everywhere if you know where to look. In addition, students were able to integrate technology into their learning to demonstrate their understanding of the math concept of even and odd numbers via their iPads.
“I think it is important for the students to understand that the iPad is a tool and not a toy,” Harris said.
Cottonwood Creek third grader Kripa Gajul said, “I love learning math and technology and more about even and odd numbers. STEAM is my favorite class of the week.”
At the end of the class, Harris pressed the illuminated button above the words Technology and Math over the STEAM words on her whiteboard, thus shedding light on the concepts her students had learned that day.
Harris has been teaching at Cottonwood Creek Elementary for 12 years and has taught at CISD for 15 years.
“Hands-on, real-world investigations and problem-based learning have always been one of the best parts of the day in my teaching career,” said Harris, who used to teach Kindergarten. “In STEAM, I am able to guide every learner in our building and hopefully open a love for asking questions and searching for answers.”
This year she is looking forward to guiding her students on figuring out how to independently find solutions to problems.
“You may find us engineering catapults, designing school playgrounds or planting, harvesting and selling a crop from our garden,” she said. “We will be documenting our journeys in our Digital Portfolios.”
She added, “There is always a buzz when the kids are lining up to come to STEAM. Each class starts with a smile and high five and ends with a smile and hug. I think that is a great sign that STEAM is having a positive impact.”
For Harris and her students at Cottonwood Creek Elementary, each class presents a chance to experience how STEAM can be found in their daily lives, thus transforming learning into a lifelong journey of discovery and wonder.
New for the 2023-2024 school year, Coppell ISD is offering a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) curriculum — including coding, robotics, and the engineering design process — at all of its elementary schools. This instructional design promotes higher-level thinking and creativity for Kindergarten to 5th grade students. Each of the district’s 11 elementary schools has a full-time STEAM educator and the STEAM program is being provided to Kindergarten to 5th grade students at all elementary schools as part of the weekly “specials” class rotation, in addition to music, art, and physical education.