Mobile STEAM Labs – Update

This year, our teachers At Ashland led by 5th grade teacher Jen Young, created mobile STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) carts that are housed centrally in our STEAM garage and checked out by teachers to use in their classrooms. Recently, they made some amazing updates based on what they have learned about the organization and preparation of these mobile labs. Read more to read their insights and communication on this excellent leader-tunity. For our staff, this is a reminder on our next steps for implementing the mobile STEAM labs in your classrooms. 

Update on Progress

Jen: “After asking for donations of supplies for our mobile STEAM carts, we were overwhelmed with materials coming in… far more so than I ever imagined!

As a result, our STEAM cart room became flooded with supplies, and it became difficult to maneuver the actual carts.  Our carts were also being used so frequently that they occasionally became disorganized, and teachers who had not used them before were intimidated to try using them.

To make the carts more user friendly for both teachers and the students who frequently retrieve them and return them, we set up “parking spaces,” so that each cart has it’s own spot in the room.  Each cart now has a colored ribbon and a color-coordinated parking spot along the back wall.  Students who are retrieving the carts can simply pull them straight out of the room through the door into the hallway.

We are also implementing a “Student STEAM Team” made up of 5th graders. One student will be assigned to each cart and these students will go to the STEAM Cart garage at the end of each school day to make sure their assigned cart is parked appropriately and organized.  This provides a great leadership opportunity for students who have earned it, and it ensures that the carts are ready to be checked out again the next day!”

Communication to Staff

Here are some key points that Jen communicated to the staff about the recent updates that she and Katie Strole, another one of our great teachers did. I think this communication is important to read because it shows how she is setting expectations as a leader for this program.

“In order to keep it looking amazing, I have a few new strategies and procedures that         will be put into place.

  1. Please please please put in your newsletters that we no longer need any supplies for our STEAM Carts, as they are stocked through the end of the year (and probably all of next year!).  We will ask again if we need more supplies.
  2. Each cart now has a colored ribbon on its handle and a color coordinated parking space.
  3. Carts will be “parked” with their handles and cart label at the front so it is easy to see which is which.
  4. When students (or teachers) return the carts to the STEAM Cart room, they should do their best to get the carts into the appropriate “parking space.”
  5. Since we realize that “parking” the carts may be difficult, especially for our younger students, it is okay if they are not in exactly the right spot.  Fifth grade students, as part of our STEAM Crew, will help make sure the carts are in the correct spaces at the end of each day.
  6.  Extra supplies are in the shelf and cardboard boxes along the wall opposite the carts. Orange duct tape labels each box with the materials inside.  Feel free to use any of these materials along with a cart (Art Cart or Junk Drawer Science) or for other school projects.  There are additional toilet paper/paper towel tubes in the staff work room if anyone needs them.
  7. Please note that he STEAM Cart room is not a “dumping ground” for unwanted materials, AND that all carts should be returned in the same manner in which they were checked out.  We are finding Critical Thinking activities in different carts than they belong, materials not even in the boxes, science and art “creations” just left in the carts randomly.  These carts help to represent our school and the amazing things that go on here every day.  Please be respectful of this as the only way these carts can be successful is if they are used and returned appropriately.
  8. Please let me know if you have any questions or are interested in using a STEAM Cart, but have no clue where to begin!”

I’m so proud of the team for not only starting this program, but for using it, learning, and making improvements. If you don’t follow through with new initiatives, even after the initial excitement, you’ll always wonder about what could have been.

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Talk is cheap and easy, the work behind the scenes is hard. Great job to our team for doing the work, especially that work that is done when no one is watching. I’m watching and I’m proud of you!

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