“What are we going to do if this chair doesn’t work for Goldilocks?” Amy Fish asks the kindergarteners. They are busy building a chair to hold the fabled intruder.
“Try again!” is their enthusiastic answer.
Amy Fish facilitates the Innovation Studio at Bourne High School: 4,000 square feet of space to encourage messing around with everything from electronics to textiles and from music to woodworking that is open to all grades and disciplines in the Bourne Public Schools.
Christine Borning, the STEAM director for Bourne Public Schools, says the Innovation Studio has been very effective at helping teachers embed hands-on innovation projects in their classes. “Amy brings expertise and the Studio environment provides the space and resources teachers need,” she says.
The Goldilocks challenge is one of Amy’s favorites for working with kindergarten and first grade students. Although she had been teaching engineering at the midde-school level, now she is having a great time weaving together science, arts, and literature with these much younger children.
“Engineering is about solving problems,” Amy says. “And in this story, the problem of Goldilocks breaking Baby Bear's chair naturally gets children’s attention.”
From there, the children eagerly they take on the challenge of making a chair that is perfect for Goldilocks. They follow a design process to build a chair with limited materials that is the right size and strength for a weighted Goldilocks model. “They have a blast and are willing to learn from their mistakes when their early prototypes don't work,” Amy says.
What’s more, she points out, the skills embedded in this process are not just applicable to engineering, but across the curriculum. “The children go from brainstorming to choosing possible solutions, prototyping, testing, redesigning, and evaluating. If you think about the writing process, the same skills apply, we just call them by different names.”
As we observe the goings-on at the Innovation Studio, we are struck by the way it energizes co-planning. There is an easy flow to it: teachers reach out to Amy when they would like to come to the Studio. Amy reaches out to teachers when she sees a natural connection in the curriculum.
The Innovation Studio has also been a real success for students who do not respond as well to the traditional classroom model of instruction. “Seeing content come alive for these kids while they practice important skills is the most rewarding thing I have been a part of in my career thus far,” Amy says.
It’s exciting to see a how an environment dedicated to creativity across levels and content areas can be good for everyone—students and teachers. This space is amazing, but what Bourne has done with it is what makes their approach to STEM unique.