Roosevelt Elementary transitions to STEAM-focused school

By: Cari DeLamielleure-Scott | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published March 30, 2015

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KEEGO HARBOR — Walk-ing through the halls of Roosevelt Elementary, one will notice young minds in high gear as they dive into Legos, K’Nex  Education sets and MobyMax software.


Roosevelt Elementary teachers have begun to integrate the arts back into the curriculum as the school transitions into to a STEAM-focused school starting in the 2015-16 school year. STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.


Roosevelt is the first school in Oakland County to transition and the second in the state, according to Principal Arthur Ebert.


STEAM is a project-based learning approach that involves connecting students with professionals from universities and businesses. STEAM is intended to combine sciences with the arts and design.


“(Professionals) would take the curriculum that we already teach, but students are going to get dirty, and they’re going to get hands-on and create things,” Ebert said to a group of parents on a tour March 24. “Our hope is that by applying that knowledge that students will become curious and they’ll start experimenting at home.”


During the transition, Roosevelt will create a design lab in the school’s “iCenter,” or library, to serve as the STEAM hub. The design lab will be a place where students can “get dirty” and use a variety of tools, including 3-D printers, Ebert said. The design lab is being funded through grants.


One project that a group of fourth-grade students will be working on in the coming weeks is redesigning the school’s atrium, which is the oldest part of the building, Ebert said at the parent tour. As opposed to adults coordinating the furniture or picking out a color scheme, students will work with a carpenter and an interior designer to make the atrium a collaborative space.


Once the students create a final draft, they have to brainstorm how to fund the project, whether it is writing grants to corporations or fundraising, Ebert said.


“If you’re going to write a letter asking for money, it better be a good letter or you’re not going to get any funds,” Ebert said, adding that teachers will work with the students to strengthen literacy and give the students real-world experiences.


Jeff DeBoer, vice president of Walled Lake-based Sundberg-Ferar and a member of the Michigan Design Council, attended the parent tour and said part of the design council’s mission is to find ways to promote arts and creativity while focusing on early education.


After watching a fourth-grade class use K’Nex Education sets to build catapults, DeBoer said that introducing the arts back into a science- and technology-based curriculum gets students thinking differently and creates problem solvers.


“It’s not just a catapult that shoots a marshmallow. It’s a catapult that shoots marshmallows but looks cool that I want to buy,” DeBoer said. “When you bring the arts in, then you have the whole picture. It’s the first piece of a manufacturing puzzle.”


Michigan has over 4,000 industrial designers, more than any other state, DeBoer said. So by including the arts, children will have a foundation for a variety of career paths.


“One thing we have as part of our DNA is creativity and inventiveness. … Let’s get this balance back here,” DeBoer said.


By transitioning to a STEAM-focused school, Roosevelt Elementary will increase the school size by about 180 students, according to Kristi Law, a teacher at Roosevelt Elementary. Students are applying to enter the school, and selections are made by lottery.


One-third of the spots open will be for in-district transfers, one-third will be for district residents not attending a West Bloomfield school, and one-third will be for school of choice applicants, Law said.


“(The program) takes extra time, extra thinking. … And we want kids that want to be able to do that,” Law said.


The application deadline is April 2. Applications can be found by visiting Roosevelt Elementary’s page at www.wbsd.org.

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