play to learn to play | math, science + engineering at play with STEM
We just celebrated our 5th Birthday and I recently indulged myself on a visual tour of memory lane. A few observations struck me right away.
- The office at the workshop sure was easier to keep organized back then.
- I shouldn't cut my hair too short.
- We enjoy incredibly loyal student families that have allowed us to watch their kids (and their families) grow in beautiful ways.
- Our mission hasn't changed in five years. There it was. STEM. Born of a perceived necessity, a purpose, a true mission...
- To provide a healthy, inclusive and non-judgmental space in which creative capacity is discovered and confidence is developed.
- To enable ready-success with inventive and relevant projects that build skills and celebrate creativity, art and craft.
- To model and encourage creative reuse, positive conflict-resolution and social responsibility to grow engaged citizens.
- To provide a quality learning environment in which the application of math, science and engineering can create something functional and fun.
STEM at Play
Read that last one again. Really? As we formalized our program earlier in the year at the invitation of the City of Chicago's Summer of Learning initiative it surprised me that our digital badge descriptions were less about art and design and more about engineering and math... but why the surprise? I was pleased to see "A" for art added to the STEM acronym to make STEAM for this program because we're all about the arts and creative sovereignty (I think this makes me a STEAM punk?) but math and science and engineering have been right under our noses all along, stitched right into everything that we do. A double-turned hem at the bottom of a skirt with 2" to work with requires how many folds and of what dimension: 1" +1" or ½" + 1½"? Fabric shrinks when we wash it-- why and what does that mean for our process and our planning? Our bodies are 3D but fabric is flat...hmmm, how does this work? Garment pattern-making (oh, patttern-making!) requires a knowledge of our body measurements, finished garment measurements, seam allowances, dart placement and size, closures, hems, ease.....phew, maybe we'll use the calculator for this one. And that's just sewing. What happens when we plan our cities in Green City Builders class and we need to determine the size of the buildings and other features relative to a base and relative to each another? How many stitches do we need to make a crochet cuff that will fit our own wrist in Epic Yarn? How many yards of fleece do Fleece Academy students need to make a poncho if the fabric is 60" wide and not 45" wide? Will a headband for a doll's head need to be a different size than one for a soft and squishy stuffed bear's in Little Clothesline class?This year we added two sewing classes for homeschoolers that include specific and obvious connections to STEM; Math by Design™ and Fashion Fraction Action™. One of the characteristics that has me so excited for these and all of our classes is that nothing has changed with a focus on STEM-- the useful skills are still useful and (maybe doubly so), the creativity is equally as creative and the fun stuff remains fun. STEM has always been here as a natural component of our curricula and approach, so indigenous that we just forgot to keep talking about it. But no more! As we celebrate our purpose anew look for new references to learning objectives to accompany our class descriptions and maybe even a progress report or two for students. We've been playing to learn to play and that my friends makes a fun-fun sandwich that we will continue to serve for years to come.ps- We are so inspired by this math stuff that we're going to keep it on going by adding more workshops for adults in the evenings and weekends. In the meantime, you can warm up with a book like this one by Laura Laing.