At Shorecrest, progressive education is not kept behind classroom doors, but something that is shared with the greater community. One could see a prime example on Saturday, January 27, as the School hosted the 3rd annual St. Pete STEAMfest. The outdoor, educational festival is centered on the study of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM). Over 1,000 students and families from all over the Tampa Bay Area experienced more than 40 exhibits and activities at the free admission event. There were robotics demonstrations, arts and crafts, design activities and engineering challenges. Local research and educational centers including Busch Gardens, Clearwater Marine Aquarium, MOSI (Museum of Science and Industry), Great Explorations, iD Tech, and Mathnasium hosted exhibits.
Guests of all ages enjoyed hands-on activities from compass painting to LEGOs, along with exhibits of underwater research vessels designed by Shorecrest eighth graders. There was a dedicated area for younger children led by faculty of The Experiential School of Tampa Bay and educators from The Wonder Studio, a local play-based, multi-sensory program for toddlers. Dr. Anna Baralt, Director of Educational Technology at Shorecrest, and STEAMfest Committee Chair said, “We launched STEAMfest as an outlet for sharing this kind of engaging, experiential learning with the greater community. STEAM subjects and projects are a part of what we do every day at Shorecrest.”
Dr. Lisa Bianco, Head of the Experiential and Lower Schools at Shorecrest, participated directly in STEAMfest. At the block studio, a new addition to the Shorecrest Kindergarten area, Dr. Bianco built theaters with two young participants. “I was building a theater out of blocks and in came a second grader and her little sister, in five minutes she built a gorgeous theater with a raked stage and handicap access -- it was incredible -- made mine look amateurish. I was explaining to the adults in the room that there is so much learning integrated into the block work, including math, science, and literacy. It is in this space where classrooms of young children will imagine, share, dialogue, research, collaborate, and problem-solve as they construct meaning together.”
On a daily basis, Dr. Bianco ensures that progressive education is a hallmark of the Shorecrest curriculum by implementing innovative learning approaches such as inquiry-based learning and Design Thinking. Teachers in the Lower School present critical problem solving skills through project assignments. The workflow of those assignments follows an approach known as Design Thinking, a framework that requires students to be acutely aware of their communities.
One example is the fourth grade sustainability project. Students are required to identify an environmental problem, then thoroughly research their observation. Students learn everything they can about the person(s) experiencing their chosen problem. Solutions are brainstormed in collaboration with others, they pick one solution to “prototype.” The ideas can be imaginative or realistic. Students exhibit their Prototypes and share information about their design, reporting what they have learned. Students seek feedback on the prototypes. Assessment of the project is focused on how the solution meets the needs of the person experiencing the problem.
Dr. Bianco explains that the inquiry process teaches students to ask and follow questions, research, solve problems, experiment, create, collaborate and empathize. She writes, “Design Thinking is always related to another’s need and perspective, from the observation of the problem to collaborating on a solution, to taking the risk of sharing the solution and discovering its feasibility.”
We invite you to come for a personal tour and see first hand the many opportunities Shorecrest students have to engage in innovative learning.