Merriam-Webster defines innovation as 1. ‘the introduction of something new’ and 2. ‘a new idea, method or device.’ At High Meadows, we define it in those ways and many more. In addition to teaching students WHAT innovation is, we teach them HOW to be innovative in their inquiry, thinking and actions.
Since we began in 1973, High Meadows teachers have emphasized an innovative, inquiry-based, integrated educational approach that fosters love of learning, creativity and meaningful connections. That approach is valuable in preparing children to have the innovation skills needed for today’s fast-changing world.
There is a big emphasis for both public and private schools to focus on STEAM classes and activities. STEAM is a shortened way of referring to Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math. Integrated learning through authentic experiences drives the High Meadows program and is at the heart of STEAM-based innovation. STEAM activities are woven throughout our curriculum via student-led exploration involving hands-on, first-person experiences focused on real-world problem solving. These include STEAM labs, Information and Technology Literacy classes and Mini Courses.
STEAM Labs and Lessons
High Meadows art teachers Brenda Major and Lynn Williams create STEAM labs for Early and Elementary Years students. They look at the International Baccalaureate Programme Of Inquiry for each grade level through a STEAM lens, mining for opportunities to create a lab that serves as a model for how a STEAM lesson can be conducted in the classroom.
“We collaborate with classroom teachers and show them the opportunities we identify when looking at the possibilities from a different perspective,” Major said. “We plan together, share resources, work alongside them or do whatever is needed based on the teachers’ level of comfort with the details of the lab.”
Once a lab is conducted, it becomes part of the school’s STEAM repertoire – a learning activity that can be repeated, tweaked or reframed to support different learning goals. “We continually mine for and model different projects, ideas, connections and materials that can be used to teach in an interdisciplinary way,” Major said.
Information and Technology Literacy (ITL) Classes
ITL teachers Amanda Korell and Holly Berg teach Kindergarten – 5th grade students how to use a variety of technology tools they can apply in other classes. Last year, all K-5 students studied coding with Ozobot and Osmo. In addition, Kindergarten/1st and 2nd/3rd students used Beebot, while 4th/5th grade students learned Sphero basics and the Microsoft Office 365 suite. Students love using these tools and exploring what they can do with them.
Middle Years Mini Courses
Middle Years (our Middle School) students at High Meadows get to choose from a variety of electives called Mini Courses.
These classes provide 6th-8th grade students opportunities to further develop an area of interest or encounter new subjects. They include STEAM-related areas such as Digital Design and Productions, Intro to 3D printing, Metalsmithing, Photoshop Basics and Sphero Challenge. These courses are popular with students.
Overall, innovation requires creativity and analytical thought and integrating multiple disciplines to follow a central purpose. Ultimately, innovative thinking is transformational thinking. That’s something we teach all High Meadows students to do.