By: Angela Veugeler
(GAC’s) STEAM education program aims to better prepare students to fill jobs in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math
According to Greater Atlanta Christian’s (GAC’s) Junior High Principal and STEM Advancement Officer Brian Dolinger, “Leonardo Davinci was the essence of STEAM. It is the convergence of science, math and art to create something beautiful.” Dolinger shared that this is what GAC is trying to accomplish with their students. “To help them connect the dots instead of segmenting each subject, trying to create experiences for our students to help shape the way they approach different challenges in life.”
This August, students welcomed the new school year with a greater focus on STEAM. The STEAM focused learning space has almost doubled on GAC’s campus, with the Junior and Senior High classrooms completely redesigned for the new initiative. Dolinger is excited about the new changes. “I think it’s going to create an environment of inspiration,” shared Dolinger. “Kids will walk in with a sense of pride. It brings up the level of expectation.”
All Junior High students take MakerSpace in 6th grade, a STEAM class that gives them the opportunity to learn how to take things apart and build things. “It’s like Shop class meets Star Wars,” shared Dolinger. “We want kids to build their creative confidence. (We want them) to say, ‘I wonder if I could figure out how to build that and make it work.’” One of their class projects last year centered around bubbles. Students researched bubbles and the science behind their formation, digitally designed their own bubble wand, sent it to the 3D printer, tested their creation by blowing bubbles and then analyzed and reflected on their designs. The culminating activity for the class is a self-chosen project. Students choose something they are interested in that cannot be bought in a store. The MakerSpace class began at GAC in 2015 and is now offered as an elective for 7th and 8th grade students with courses such as coding and robotics. According to Dolinger, “one of the goals is building determination and resilience in students, encouraging them to learn and improve through the process of trial and error.“
At the High School level, students have required classes such as Biology, Chemistry and Physics for graduation, but have the opportunity to take a wide variety of elective classes based on their interests. Some of the courses offered include AP Computer Science, App Development, iStudio, Robotics, Astronomy, Marine Biology and much more.
New this fall, elementary school students will get to experience a floating classroom. Sitting aboard a pontoon boat on Lake Lanier, the students will have the opportunity to study ecology and marine ecosystems in the field.
The Environmental Center was added in 2015 and encompasses a green house, koi pond, chicken coop and trout hatchery, giving elementary school students experiential opportunities, where they learn by doing. Teachers take advantage of the center, weaving these experiences into the natural curriculum.
The mission of Greater Atlanta Christian School is to help each student grow as Jesus did in wisdom, and stature, and in favor with God and man. Dolinger shared, “our success in realizing our mission of helping each student to grow as Jesus did, centers us on people over programs, futures over facilities, and purposes that are greater than our own. Our STEAM focus will accomplish much in our facilities, resources and programs, but the greater gains will come through the meaningful learning and life shaping, accomplished through the relationships between our caring, dedicated educators and our amazing students. We are privileged and blessed to be able to develop and equip our students to launch into their next stages of life fully prepared and inspired to carry us into the future.”
For more information on GAC, visit greateratlantachristian.org. ✱
STEM is a nationwide movement focusing on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. STEM education is an integrated, interdisciplinary approach to learning that provides hands-on and relevant learning experiences for students. The movement has been gaining momentum across the country, aiming to better prepare students to fill jobs in these growing sectors. STEAM is a newer approach that incorporates art. This type of learning encourages students to learn from their experiences, reflect on choices and improve the next time around.