Londonderry School has incorporated the STEAM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) throughout the curriculum. STEAM is an educational approach that uses those subjects as access points for guiding student inquiry, dialogue, and critical thinking. Students are encouraged to take thoughtful risks, engage in experiential learning, persist in problem-solving, embrace collaboration, and work through the creative process.
Below are some of the ways Londonderry’s curriculum encompasses STEAM:
The BioBlitz is an annual event that focuses on finding and identifying as many species as possible in a short period of time. The purpose is to engage our students as citizen scientists and to explore and document the biodiversity in our big backyard. Our 2017 Bioblitz featured many community partners, including the PA Departments of Agriculture and Environmental Protection, Capital Region Water, as well as parent volunteers who ran some amazing science-related stations for our kids. The kids spent time in small groups using clipboards and field guides to look for as many tree, plant, flower, insect and animal species as they could. They took walks to learn about edible plants and flowers, conducted experiments to learn the importance of trees, made nature journals and leaf rubbings, and visited the amazing Woodmobile to learn about PA’s forests and forest products industry.
Judy Bower’s afterschool science club competes annually in the KidWind Challenge, which allows students to explore the power of wind by building and testing their own wind turbines. Science, technology, engineering and math are the main components behind building a wind turbine. Londonderry students have competed in the Kidwind Challenge in State College since 2012, and even hosted the challenge at Londonderry School in 2013. In 2016 and 2017, our teams competed in the first two National Challenges in New Orleans, LA and Anaheim, CA. In April 2018, two Londonderry teams tied for first place in State College and competed at the National Challenge in Chicago, IL in May 2018. In 2019, a Londonderry team placed 1st in the state competition and will be going to Nationals again this year in Houston, TX!
In 2016 students in first through eighth grade took part in a zero waste lunch challenge. Each class began by performing a waste audit of their lunches, by weighing and recording how much of their lunch leftovers were trash, recyclable or compostable. A few weeks later, the students repeated their audit to see if they had reduced their waste, and wrapped up the unit with a contest to see which class came the closest to “zero waste”. Volunteers from 5th and 6th grade gathered, weighed, and recorded the leftovers and graphed the results. They learned about soil, decomposition, what happens to our recyclables, how to sort plastics and determined what the different types are and how they are used.
We have also created a Green Team. The Green Team is a collaborative effort among parents, students and teachers to continue our zero waste lunch initiatives, expand our composting efforts and try to reduce waste school-wide, maintaining our tradition of stewardship of the environment, both indoors and out.
Londonderry students in seventh and eight grade have had the opportunity (most recently in November 2017) to visit the Chesapeake Bay for an unforgettable educational trip. Through the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the students and teachers spent three days and two nights experiencing the Bay on Port Isobel Island, and immersed themselves into the culture, history, and ecology of the Bay. The students went marsh-mucking, hiked through the pine forest, and explored the Bay by boat, setting crab pots and learning about the abundant fish and crabs in the local waters. The students also learned about how the livelihoods of watermen are connected to the Bay by interacting with the local community. The students were involved in preparing, serving and cleaning up after all the meals, as well as keeping the spaces clean and organized.
To fund this amazing educational experience, the students, with the help of teachers and parents created a “pop-up” restaurant at Londonderry, where they were responsible for budgeting, cooking, serving and cleaning up a full service restaurant for 200 people. The restaurant was an amazing success and raised a majority of the funds needed for the trip.
Technology for the fifth through eighth grades focuses on digital citizenship, authentic tasks, and 21st century skills. Our classes promote and model how to safely use the internet and technology in our ever-changing technological world. Throughout the year students are being exposed to a wide variety of applications and software. Our technology teacher, Mallorie Batson, collaborates with classroom teachers to create authentic tasks that utilize interdisciplinary projects. Students collaborate and create projects in pairs and groups that focus on skills such as creativity, imagination, problem solving, critical thinking, and teamwork.
Londonderry’s Kindergarten through sixth grade students participate in Kathy Boyle’s Computer class. The students use a project-oriented approach to develop good computer skills, a proficiency in the Logo computer language, and programming (coding) structure. The projects have a wide range of ideas incorporated within them, including: elementary mathematical concepts, phonics, basic reading and decoding skills, algebra, geometry, the structure of language, animation, and the use of design, color, and texture in graphics. At the end of the school year during parent conferences, Kathy holds an annual Computer Show, where group and individual projects are showcased.
In Cindi Hardwicke’s Art class, the goal is to develop the divergent thinking skills of children, which enables them to look at the world from many points of view. It also helps them to discover that there is often more than one solution to a problem. Creative activities assist in the development of these important skills and enable children to explore, make discoveries, manipulate, and control materials in their environment. They learn the “how to” of drawing and creating other forms of art by looking at nature, photographs, and the objects and people around us. While they are looking, they are making careful observations of shape, size, color, texture, and lines in the things that they see. They learn about other people who make art today (illustrators of books, fine artists, sculptors, photographers, etc.) and about artists who made art in the past. By looking at art from different times and cultures they can learn about the history, surroundings, clothing, and ways of life of others. Art is also a tool for students to gain an insight into personal aesthetics, and self-expression and gives children a “voice” to communicate ideas and the expression of feelings and fears. The kids work on art projects throughout the year and pick a selection to be displayed in the annual Arts Festival in May.
Our yearly All School Play is a wonderful collaboration between the students of Londonderry and our play writer and director, Hollis Healy, as well as the teachers and the parent volunteers. As a component of our curriculum, the students take part in choosing their roles either on stage or behind the scenes. All Pre-K, Kindergarten and Elementary students participate in the play, whether it’s performing a dance with their whole class, singing in the chorus, having lead or supporting acting roles, or being part of the back stage crew moving props and working curtain ropes. There is a place for everyone in the All School Play, and it is a truly unique and enriching experience for all involved.