AceraEI brings Whole School STEAM projects to Pyne Arts

The Pyne Arts first grader wasn’t satisfied with the results of her first experiment.

“I added a big water and a big glue the first time, and I did three small Borax,” she noted, having written her first “recipe” down on her clipboard. “But it was slippery and hard and too bouncy. I realized that I added too much water and I needed a little bit more Borax. So the second time I did a big Borax, three small glues, and three small waters. I like the second slime better than the first slime.”

The hands-on STEAM activity “The Choreography of Matter” was a half-day, whole-school event held at the Pyne Arts K-8 public school in Lowell. During the activity, students experimented with different recipes of their own making, in search of what they considered the “ideal homemade slime.”

As part of AceraEI’s three-year partnership with Pyne Arts, the school is implementing curriculum – created and pilot tested at Acera’s lab school – that promotes scientific thinking, inquiry, and creative problem solving. The partnership is built around AceraEI’s commitment to professional development and support to Pyne, with the intent to spread successful efforts throughout the district.

In building to events such as the half-day “Choreography of Matter,” AceraEI provides training in the lesson plan and activities with Pyne Arts’ STEAM Team, a cohort of teacher mentors who then train the rest of the faculty. As the teachers learn the new hands-on content, they collaborate on ways to weave the activity into the current curriculum.

For the half-day activity “Enchanted Electronics,” for example, Pyne Arts’ kindergarten and first grade incorporation the circuity into their unit on animals, guiding the kids in creating their own backpack key chain in the shape of their favorite animal that lit up via circuits they made themselves. Students in sixth grade biology designed and brought to life their own insect “superbug,” complete with electronic eyes or stingers.

“What I saw today when I walked around was a different level of enthusiasm,” said Crocker-Roberge following the Enchanted Electronics all-school activity. “I saw kids who were hyperfocused, who were as engaged in their circuitry as they were in their art. They were taking learning that they had done previously and they were amplifying it. Teachers are taking their current lesson plans, which were already great, and intertwining them with STEAM education in much more organic ways that result in student work products that they have ton of ownership over and that they are extremely proud of. The kids are holding themselves and their work to higher standards, and that is really exciting to see.”