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Teachers are learning we are all engineers

Construction continues to make progress on the new I.J. Holton Intermediate School.  Roofing is being installed over the four sections of the building, cement is being poured on the first and second floors, and the building will soon be sealed up and heated as we anticipate the coming of winter.

Austin Public Schools is opening a new school in August 2013 that will house all fifth and sixth grade public school students from the Austin area.  While the learning spaces continue to take shape inside the I.J. Holton construction throughout the winter months, new ideas about teaching will also be taking shape in the minds of fifth and sixth grade teachers who will move to the new building next year.

Teaching and learning in the new intermediate school will have a STEAM focus - Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics. Through a continued professional practice partnership with the University of Minnesota and a generous donation from the Hormel Foundation, Austin fifth and sixth grade teachers are receiving development in all things STEAM during the current school year as they ready to move into the new school next fall. Teachers had their first session with University of Minnesota staff in October.

Training for teachers will focus on four specific areas:

1) Defining STEAM,


2) Disciplinary Literacy,

3) Comprehension and Collaboration; A study of inquiry based instruction,

4) Engineering is Elementary. 

During each of the workshop sessions, teachers will explore in depth one of the components of STEAM. The final session will look at making the whole system work, synthesizing STEAM, determining which pieces to highlight in their respective curricular areas and developing assessment and evaluation processes for student learning.

In the area of disciplinary literacy, teachers will learn how to explicitly define and teach how one "reads like a scientist," "reads like a mathematician," "reads like a historian," and "reads like an artist." Between sessions with university professors, teachers will read, process and practice information from the book Comprehension and Collaboration.  Using site based professional learning communities, teachers will dig into research on comprehension, collaboration, inquiry, and project based learning.  They will have opportunities to set up their classroom to support these methods of instruction as well as learn about and use online technology.  Finally, teachers will develop plans for assessment, evaluation, logistics and set-up of these instructional practices in the new building.

The final piece of training is learning about and using the Engineering is Elementary (EiE) curriculum from the Boston Museum of Science.  Engineering, as a process, will be the framework for the STEAM process at I.J. Holton.  Each session with the University of Minnesota will see teachers getting hands-on experience with a new engineering unit.  The goal for the inaugural school-year is to have one well-defined engineering unit fully developed for each grade five and grade six.  Additional units will be selected, developed and added to the curriculum each year based on grade level standards and opportunities to partner with community organizations to extend these units into real life applications.

Yes, we ARE all engineers, and students will soon have the opportunity to find their own inner engineer when I.J. Holton Intermediate School opens in August 2013!

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