MCAA promotes a self-directed learning environment in which students have multiple opportunities to collaborate and investigate real-world problems through a variety of in-school and extracurricular learning experiences.
Narrative: STEAM Units and House Challenges at MCAA are focused on local problems that are relatable and real-world for students. Both the units and House Challenges focus around a driving question that students use to drive their inquiry and learning throughout the unit and/or House Challenge. For instance, one of our House Challenges was focused around making school-wide improvements. Students toured MCAA's campus and located and determined how their house could make improvements while also maintaining what makes MCAA Above the Line. Students had to collaborate and make a presentation to Dr. Patterson to convince how their ideas would bring improvements and justify school funding. Another example is a 3rd grade STEAM unit focused around motivations for movement. The driving question related to the motivations that bring families to MCAA. After researching and learning from local experts, students created an advertisement for MCAA utilizing what they have learned about different motivations as well as advertising techniques. In addition, many STEAM Units are focused on global, real-world problems. One of our 5th grade STEAM units is focused around using innovative solutions to solve traffic issues. Traffic congestion is a pervasive problem in the Atlanta area due to the increase in population. Students speak with representatives from the Georgia Department of Transportation and our Regional Transportation Agency (MARTA) to understand how the impacts of a growing population impact societies at a global level. Students design improvements for infrastructure to relieve congestion in cities with large populations. Students consistently collaborate throughout the STEAM Units and House Challenges. Collaborative student groups are chosen by both students and teachers. Students must use the four C's throughout all steps in the MCAA EDP. In addition to collaboration within individual classrooms, there is also vertical grade level collaboration that occurs during House Challenges. Third, fourth, and fifth grade students are placed in collaborative groups and work together to complete the House Challenges and solve real-world, local problems. Throughout all spaces at MCAA, there is a common visual for the MCAA EDP. This allows for learners to consistently engage in this process in a systematic manner. With the visual being in all classrooms and common areas, it allows students to take full ownership of the process in all STEAM units as well throughout other content areas such as writing and math. In addition, within the hallways at MCAA there are multiple shadow box displays that showcase the MCAA EDP that mirror the visuals throughout the common spaces. There is a box for each of the 6 steps of the process. Throughout the STEAM units, student created evidence is placed in the boxes to represent each step of the process. Students at MCAA engage in self-directed learning in a variety of ways. Students use STEAM journals to document their research and learning in each STEAM Unit and House Challenge. We strive to make the STEAM journal a student driven space, where students can display their thinking in the ways that work best for them. Teachers help facilitate journal usage by modeling different note taking techniques and systems for collecting data, however it is up to each individual student to manage their own STEAM journal. During each unit, students are tasked with exploring a driving question. The driving question allows students to use their creativity and critical thinking skills to imagine possible solutions for the question/problem. This is a open-ended process which allows for students to make decisions about how they choose to explore the question. While students may be given criteria or constraints for a unit, they are encouraged to create their own unique product. At the end of each unit, students complete a reflection on their experience within the STEAM unit. They respond to reflection prompts to allow for an opportunity for them to think critically about the skills used within the unit, their learning within the unit and revisions that they might make in the future.
Standard 6: Learners engage collaboratively in authentic inquiry during ongoing units of study.
Standard 7: Learners engage in self-directed STEM learning guided by professional staff members who are effective facilitators of learning.
Standard 8: Learners benefit from a formal structure of within-school and extracurricular opportunities to extend STEM learning.