Engaging High Performance Students at Ellis Elementary School in Active Problem Solving

STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) is in focus at Ellis Elementary School with a group of high performing students in grades 4 and 5. These students have been chosen by their teachers based on their academic performance and skill at higher level thinking, as well as their leadership ability. The RED (Research in Education and Design) lab at Stanford School of Education designed the curriculum used for this program (there have been some modifications in order to adapt it to an elementary level however). Students are constantly working on design thinking, teamwork, and leadership skills throughout the different hands-on activities.

Project Overview

President Obama launched an “Educate to Innovate” campaign to promote the participation and performance of students in STEM areas. At Ellis, the goal is to work with students and help them develop skills in design thinking–an innovative, human-centered approach to defining and solving problems.

STEM Goal at Ellis

The goal at Ellis is to introduce Stanford’s RED STEM curriculum and facilitate lessons that will allow students to apply the design-thinking process to hands-on, interactive learning activities, fostering knowledge on STEM fields. As part of the objectives, students will apply their knowledge to identify and solve problems in their communities. This year, teams are working on global warming (conservation of energy and water). At the end of this school year, students will have the confidence of being active problem solvers in innovative, human-centered ways that will help them face different challenges and possibilities in the 21st century.

The Thinking Process

Integrated Design Thinking/STEM curriculum is a pilot program developed by RED lab, a partnership between Stanford’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design and the School of Education. This curriculum was designed to engage students in active problem solving and believing in the ability of creating impactful change.

The Design Thinking Process includes 5 steps:
1. Empathize
2. Define
3. Ideate
4. Prototype
5. Test

By using the Design Thinking Process at Ellis, we anticipate students being able to:

* Show, Don’t Tell
Communicate their vision in an impactful and meaningful way.
* Focus on Human Values
Empathize with the people they are working for/with.
* Embrace Experimentation
They build, they think, they learn.
* Bias Towards Action
This is more about doing than thinking.
* Craft Clarity
Produce a cohesive vision out of messy problems.
* Be Mindful of Process
Know where they are and what their goals are.
* Radical Collaboration
Bring together innovators with different backgrounds and viewpoints.

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Article by Jonathan Watts, 3rd Grade Teacher and Claudia Olaciregui, 4th/5th Grade Teacher/Ellis Elementary School

Comments (1)

it sounds like a great program. specially because is focusing in high performance students. We need to invest more in those kids with potential. I wish more programs like this could be implemented at other schools too.

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