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04 Dec, Sunday
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Montreal Families

Innovative teaching methods picking up STEAM

After successful pilot projects, both the English Montreal School Board (EMSB) and the Lester B. Pearson School Board (LBPSB) are expanding their STEAM programs, a method of teaching Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics through group projects that encourage creativity and learning through discovery.

Last year, the EMSB introduced STEAM in two elementary schools, General Vanier in St. Leonard and Pierre Elliott Trudeau in Rosemont and this year, at least a dozen more schools want to introduce the program.

“We are hoping to get as many of our schools on board as possible, but it’s a question of resources,” said EMSB Chair Angela Mancini. “From my perspective, this is a project that’s worth investing in.”

Mancini said the teachers involved in piloting the program say the approach improves student engagement, motivating children to want to learn. “Teachers say the bell rings and the children don’t want to go to recess, which is pretty amazing,” Mancini said.

According to LBPSB Director of Educational Services Thomas Rhymes, while the district supports STEAM programs, it is the principals and teachers who are driving its adoption, rather than the school board.

“We have a number of schools that are following a STEAM framework…and are at various levels of implementation,” Rhymes said. “It stretches across the territory of our board. In everything we do, we promote integrated pedagogy, which is collaboration between teachers, looking at how arts and science and mathematics complement each other.”

For example, Rhymes pointed to Dorset Elementary in Baie d’Urfé as a school that has successfully integrated the STEAM approach. Students studied bridges last year, looking not just at how they are built, but also how bridges change societies, the mathematical concepts that explains how they are supported, the various types and why you might build one sort over another in a particular place.

One common feature among schools implementing the program is a ‘Makerspace,’ often located in an unused classroom. These spaces are designed to provide easy access to the tools and supplies children need to imagine and build projects that illustrate math, science or engineering concepts using computers or iPads as well as art supplies.

In the case of St. Lazare’s Forest Hill Senior Elementary, the Makerspace was created by tearing down the wall between the school’s library and computer lab, and renovating to create zones for reading, computer work, painting, Lego and crafts or building activities.

Rhymes says that STEAM is just one of the exciting emerging innovations in teaching. He said technological advances are radically changing how teachers manage their classrooms, and how children can learn. “I’ve been in this business 27 years now, and it’s never been as exciting in terms of teaching, learning and the potential that we have to engage students.”

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