According to Ritchhart (2015), in most cases, when educators are asked: What do you want the children you teach to be like as adults? – the answers include curious, engaged, able to persevere, empathetic, willing to take risks and try new things, able to problem-solve, creative, passionate, open-minded, a listener, respectful, committed to the community, willing to learn from mistakes, imaginative, adaptable…and the list goes on.  The desired portrait is the student as an engaged and active thinker able to communicate, innovate, collaborate, and problem-solve. This is the profile of the 21st Century learner.  Going along with this, S.T.E.A.M. is rolling into our district.

It is always exciting to see new programs begin in our district.  One area of growth is with our implementation of S.T.E.A.M. – Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, & Math.fred

In fourth grade, students have been working on collaborative teams to solve a problem – how to get a lifejacket (gummy lifesaver) to Fred (gummy worm) who is floating on top of a boat (plastic cup) using four paper clips and no human touch.  It was interesting to watch them use the Experimental Design Model (Ask – Explore – Model – Evaluate – Explain) as they planned and improved upon their solutions.

Lessons learned:

  1. Try and then rework based on team input.
  2. Even when it is successful, try again to assure it is a good idea.
  3. Working as a team provides more solutions than solo work.


At Briggs, learning activities are organized into centers during specials using OSMOS,,  and snap circuits.  Hands on learning is going strong as students are involved in discovery. This very brief video gives you a snapshot of this exploration time.


In a Middle School Elective, Lego Robotics are taught by Beth Wold.  For this year’s competition, the authentic problem is how adults and animals effect the lives of one another.  Along with research, they are programming VEX robots to complete identified tasks using a variety of attachments.  Below, students are measuring the distance traveled and then programming the computer to complete a special task.



Hands on learning, team work, and problem-solving are picking up STEAM in Maquoketa schools!


Ritchhart, R. (2015). Creating cultures of thinking: The 8 forces we must master to truly transform our schools. SanFranciso: Jossey-Bass.