Monday, February 9, 2015

STEAM -- Passion Based Learning

Today's blogger is Phil Zellers, STEAM and Engineering Teacher eLearning Coach at Perry Central Jr/Sr High School.

This year, at Perry Central, we have started a new passion based learning class called STEAM.  This class has been like nothing I have ever been a part of before.  I know we’re only in our first year but as a class, together, we are all figuring out how passion based learning works best.  I have to say it has been an incredible experience so far.  I wanted to take a moment and share my “teacher” views on how the class is going.

I was a little nervous coming into this class.  It was territory I had never been before.  I also really believed it could be something very cool!  Some observations so far:  We are off to a great start!  This group of students has amazed me with what they are able to do when turned loose to learn about topics they want to learn about.  We have two bands that have formed, organized practices (practice outside of school hours as well), and worked with another student group to develop a website for them, all in one quarter…that’s some real world stuff there!  It gets noisy with the bands practicing from time to time but I think everyone has adjusted!  There are some truly talented people in this group, one has started to write his own sheet music as well as lyrics.
Metal sign crafted by a STEAM Student
There are a couple of students who have completely disassembled a laptop.  Which brings me to my next observation, it gets messy sometimes and that’s okay too!  I look over and there are “computer guts” all over the table but they are cleaned up and stowed away everyday too.

I am learning so much from this group of students.  They have taught me about topics like behind the scenes film making processes, environmental issues, the actual names of the parts that make up “computer guts,” coding, programming, astrophotography, and I’ve also learned how to play a short tune on the guitar (a very short tune!).  I even get to participate in a book club they organized (Outliers: The Story of Success).  I’m so excited to see what I’m going to learn from them next.

STEAM logo designed by students and created on the vinyl cutter
Here is a list of some examples of projects completed so far in this year’s STEAM class:
-A student made a drill press out of metal he brought in and then welded together
-A student finished writing a novel she had started on a couple of years ago.
-A student built  a horse feeder.
-A student completed a couple pieces of commissioned artwork
-A group of students taught each other how to use our CAD program Inventor
-A student designed a sign on the Inventor program, 3D printed it and then actually made it out of metal he brought in.

Band Practice
Here’s a little information about how the class is structured.  We spent the first few weeks getting to know one another better by taking personality inventories and career interest surveys.  Then, students started to explore their interests to see what they would like to pursue.  From there, they made a plan and set goals.  They get graded on blogs, class observations, and sharing of their   What I look for as a teacher is, are they learning something new everyday, are they finding good resources, and other 21st Century skills.  

Artwork created by a STEAM Student
So, yes, it gets messy and it gets noisy from time to time but it’s also inspiring and just plain awesome to see these students in action!  These students respect one another, share ideas with one another, and learn from one another every day.  Needless to say, I’m no longer nervous about this class.  These students have truly taken ownership of it and have made it something beyond what I could have imagined.  I have seen these students truly enjoy learning and that has been the coolest part for me!  If you’re interested more in how the class is structured please feel free to contact me at  

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