Standard 1.7. STEM Educators collaborate as an interdisciplinary team to plan, implement, and improve integrated STEM learning experiences.

Fulton Science Academy Private School believes in the importance of scheduling a common planning and collaboration time for our faculty, as well as, providing each of our teachers with two planning periods during the day. Our teachers truly enjoy these two planning periods as it assists them in adequately preparing for their classes. In addition to our planning periods, our teachers also have daily interdisciplinary collaborative professional learning time that supports a cohesive and positive culture of constant improvement. While elementary grades meet every day between 3:45 pm and 4:20 pm for their daily professional learning, middle and high school teachers meet between 7:30 am and 8:05 am.

One of these professional learning days is specifically allocated for STEM Unit planning and preparations. We have select teacher leaders conducting each professional learning day with additional support from administrative staff. Wednesday is our STEM Unit collaboration and planning time for middle and high school faculty members. Our Assistant Principal and Science Department Chair, Mr. Parlak leads this collaboration time along with Math Department Chair, Mrs. Duzyol, and our Technology Coordinator, Mr. Kaya. We use Mondays for instructional technology training and Tuesdays for instructional strategies. Our elementary team also spends one day for STEM Unit planning on Wednesdays and uses Mondays for technology and STEM related trainings. Both the elementary team and the middle and high school team use Thursdays for collaborative Atlas Rubicon Unit planning. This online system allows our teacher to work on unit planning collaboratively.

In addition to our school e-mail and Atlas Rubicon, our faculty also uses Google Documents and Slack for collaboration. Our Slack collaboration channels include channels for Professional Learning, Performance Assessments, STEAM Enrichment, FSA Everyone, FSA Teachers, a channel for each department and many other channels to facilitate collaboration in an online format.

Also, our elementary grade team teachers plan weekly STEM challenge day activities for our students collaboratively. We took one hour away from our overall weekly social studies class time and reallocated it to conduct STEM activities for our students in the elementary grades.

Some examples of collaborative STEM Units are as follows:

Second grade teachers planned a STEM unit to explore chemical and physical changes in Matter. Students were challenged to create an environmentally friendly substance that could be utilized as a natural glue. They used the engineering/design process to conduct research about what makes substances environmentally friendly, they read and explored different options, they applied their knowledge of physical/chemical changes, and they used their math skills in order to determine proper amounts of resources they would use to create their “glue”. Each group had the opportunity to test their substance, make improvements during their testing phase, and gather data in order to determine if they were or were not successful. This particular unit allowed students to fully immerse themselves in the study of physical and chemical changes, understanding that by combining certain items they would be able to create new substances as a result of a chemical change. This unit was cross-curricular, allowing students to apply Reading/ELA, Math, Science, and SS real-world knowledge in order to create and test their substances at the end of the challenge.

This month, 2nd grade is exploring the relationship between the Earth, Sun and Moon. Students were given the real-world problem of “The Astro Sundial Company is looking for a Shadow Stick, but not just any Shadow Stick. They are looking for one that is the size of a person, so they can determine how a person’s shadow will change throughout the course of a day. You will need to conduct a shadow stick that is the same height at you. You will use the shadow stick to determine how shadows change throughout the day by measuring the shadow is makes and reflecting on your findings.” Students worked in groups throughout the week to research and explore why we would need a shadow stick and how they would engineer a shadow stick of the correct size/materials. At the end of the week, students created and tested their shadow sticks. Throughout the day, their measurements and findings allowed them to see the relationship between the Earth and the Sun as their shadows moved and changed size. Students were able to connect what we have been reading about during reading groups and learning about in Science, while also using their measurement Math skills. 

Third grade teachers planned and interdisciplinary unit to explore wind erosion. Students were given choices in materials to use to build a structure across a pan of sand that might prevent the sand from being eroded from wind.  To test it out, we measured the height of the sand, used a hair dryer to blow across the sand, and then measured the height of sand again. Students planned their structures individually, then worked in a group to share their ideas and create one collaborative structure.  Students worked in the groups to build the erosion fence.  Students also presented their structures to the class.  After we tested it out, students thought of ways they could have improved the structure to obtain better results.

In 7th grade math, students were challenged with three different tasks to show their proficiency level on angles formed by transversals with a cross-curricular project, which involves math, language arts, art and social studies. Within three weeks math 7 students learned about angle pairs, complementary, supplementary, adjacent, vertical, and angles formed by parallel lines cut by transversals; alternate interior, alternate exterior, corresponding, same side interior (consecutive interior), and linear pair. Their first task was designing their own city using parallel & perpendicular lines, transversals and special angles and the products created were 2D posters. The second task was writing an expository essay describing a day in the life of resident in your city. They must visit at least five places and describe the route they take to get from place to place. The last task was group work to analyze and synthesize the messy problem.

In addition to the benefits it provides to our students and academic program, collaboration increases the cohesiveness of our team. It, also, provides opportunities for our faculty to demonstrate their leadership abilities, assists us in aligning our goals, and ultimately supports our school in reaching its academic mission and vision targets. Fulton Science Academy will continually strive to increase collaborative opportunities as it benefits our program in both tangible and intangible ways.