Nurturing Minds Through Integrated STEAM Learning

Cassie Banka | Director of IDEA Space
In the dynamic landscape of education, the integration of science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) has become a cornerstone for fostering holistic learning experiences. Eighth grade English students at The Barstow School recently completed an integrated learning project as they delved into Sandra Cisneros' "The House on Mango Street."
This immersive project, conducted in collaboration with the cutting-edge technology available at the Dan & Cassidy Towriss IDEA Space, not only enriched their literary understanding, but also empowered readers to explore the ambiguity within the novel through a unique lens.

The Synthesis of Technology and Literature
Students tackled the pivotal theme of ambiguity through Augmented Reality (AR). As directors, AR creators and set designers, they interpreted scenes from the novel through 3D models with AR enhancements. Students developed and employed skills that included innovation, inspection, estimation, management, operation of objects and information organization.  This multidisciplinary endeavor not only bridged gaps between subjects, but also nurtured essential 21st century skills.

The heart of the project lay in the synthesis of technology and literature. Ambiguity, a central element in "The House on Mango Street," was translated into AR experiences. After engaging in the design thinking project with faculty and IDEA Space educators, student AR creators skillfully designed immersive scenarios that captured the elusive essence of Cisneros' vignette-style passages. Leveraging technology, they transformed ambiguity into a tangible and interactive learning tool that allowed peers to engage with the novel in unprecedented ways.

Collaborating to Create Scenes that Deepen Understanding
The concept of reality was addressed through physical representation in a 3D space. Set designers meticulously crafted tangible replicas of the novel's settings using cardboard. This hands-on approach deepened the students' connection to the narrative and provided a spatial context for their creations. They developed an impactful understanding of the synergy between virtual and physical realms not typically associated with English class reading assignments. 

Students articulated their interpretations of ambiguity through voiceover scripts. The directors, guiding the project's narrative, ensured that each voiceover script demonstrated understanding of the materials through the integration of literature, technology, and hands-on construction. These narratives explain the students' perspectives while serving as memorable evidence of their intellectual and creative growth.
Job-based roles played a pivotal role throughout the process. The director oversaw the entire project, fostering leadership skills and a sense of responsibility. The AR creator blended literature with technology to create immersive experiences. The set designer, on the other hand, manifested organizational and spatial skills, bringing the physicality of the novel to life. These roles actually mirror real-world professions. They also empower students to discern their strengths and interests.

A Transformational Learning Experience
The integration of STEAM learning in the exploration of "The House on Mango Street'' provided eighth grade students with a transformative educational experience, from reading to writing, building, recording, programming and creation. The project deepened their understanding of the assigned literature and equipped them with a diverse set of new skills essential that they are likely to use again in upper school, college or career. Integrated learning opportunities like this exemplify the potential of integrated STEAM learning to help students develop technical literacy and apply critical thinking and problem solving in varied situations.
    • Literature leaps off the page into virtual reality through integrate STEAM learning at IDEA Space.

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