Looking to provide more enrichment opportunities at the school, some sixth-grade students at Santa Fe 5/6 Center got the chance to participate in a STEAM Day — engaging in activities focused on Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics — held this week at the ETC building.

STEAM initiatives continue to be a growing trend nationally and both Santa Fe teacher Anna Wedel and tech integration specialist Megan Nagel jumped at the chance to provide a day dedicated to that educational focus to help enhance the learning the participating students are doing in their regular classrooms.

"We are trying to help them develop critical thinking skills, develop curiosity and develop creative thinking, helping them take that to the next level. It's just part of what we do," Wedel said. "It's not specific to the exact curriculum, but it is developing the thinking skills that they need to be creative and use that creativity and pull it back into the curriculum."

Initially focused on giving students the time to fix some coding issues with the Lego Mindstorms sets, according to Wedel, it was Nagel who had the idea to turn it into a full-on "STEAM Day" at the ETC building, with students getting to work on the robotics sets along with opportunities to program their own alternative computer keyboards (out of Play-Doh, pipe cleaners, etc.) using Makey Makey and learning how to utilize green screen technology in a location identification activity.

Activities offered helped enhance various classroom skills (i.e. math, science, social studies, language arts, etc.), but more than that Nagel said it also gave students the opportunity to learn through experimentation — like using the Makey Makey to turn various objects into a piano keyboard.

"They didn't just learn how to do it. It was trial and error to be successful; the same way with green screening," Nagel said.

"Makey Makey was very awesome. It's just going through different objects and learning about electricity and how that goes through the body," said student Nash Dickinson. "It's just fun to explore new technology. It's different to work with some of this stuff that we don't usually get to work with every single day."

Providing those enrichment opportunities will only continue to grow in importance in the eyes of both Wedel and Nagel. Amid Santa Fe's redesign this year, there has been an increased focus on STEAM (with a teaching position dedicated specifically to that initiative) and that is key in in giving students the necessary skills to succeed in the future.

"Our future is asking kids to be able to code, to be able to figure out computers, to be able to think and apply that to engineering skills. That's becoming a focus, especially in the redesigned schools, to offer those opportunities a lot," Wedel said.

"I just look around and look at how engaged and excited they are to learn and I am hopeful that this was a great day for them and that they loved every minute of it," Nagel said. "We never know what kind of jobs we're preparing them for and this lets them experience and then maybe go out and try it. Hopefully we're creating a world of kids who love innovation and science."