Archived Story

STEAM team continues work on new school

Published 10:12am Friday, April 12, 2013

By Jean McDermott
I.J. Holton principal

Austin Public Schools is opening a new school in August 2013 that will house all fifth- and sixth-grade public school students from the Austin area. While the learning spaces continue to take shape inside the I.J. Holton construction, and furniture and equipment selections are being made, new ideas about teaching continue to take shape in the minds of fifth- and sixth-grade teachers who will move to the new building next year.

Teaching and learning in the new intermediate school will have a STEAM focus — science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics. Through a continued professional practice partnership with the University of Minnesota and a generous donation from the Hormel Foundation, Austin fifth- and sixth-grade teachers are receiving development in all things STEAM during the current school year as they ready to move into the new school next fall. Teachers look forward to their final session of the year with U of M faculty in early May. This partnership will continue into the next school year as Holton teachers implement the strategies they have worked on this year in regards to the Engineering Design Process and instruction in their various curricular areas.

The Holton leadership team has worked diligently this year to review 20 Engineering is Elementary units designed by the Boston Museum of Science. Four engineering units have been selected for each grade based on their correlation to Minnesota curriculum standards. Each unit addresses a science topic, with a specific engineering focus. The unit is introduced through a piece of literature and each explores the culture of a different country.

Grade 5 will be phasing in the following engineering units over the next four years: 1) Water, Water, Everywhere: Designing Water Filters; environmental engineering; “Saving Salila’s Turtle;” India. 2) A Slick Solution — Cleaning an Oil Spill; environmental engineering, “Tehya’s Pollution Solution;” USA/Native American. 3) The Best of Bugs: Designing Hand Pollinators; agricultural engineer; “Mariana Becomes a Butterfly;” Dominican Republic. 4) Just Passing Through-Designing Model Membranes; bioengineering; “Juan Daniel’s Futbol Frog;” El Salvador.

Grade six will be phasing in the following engineering units the next four years: 1) Catching the Wind: Designing Windmills — Wind & Weather; mechanical engineering; “Leif Catches the Wind;” Denmark, 2) Marvelous Machines-Making Work Easier; industrial engineering; “Aisha Makes Work Easier;” USA/African American; 3) Lighten Up — Designing Lighting Systems; optical engineering; “Omar’s Time to Shine;” Egypt. 4) Sounds Like Fun — Seeing Animal Sounds; acoustical/communication engineering; “Kwame’s Sound;” Ghana.

Each grade will implement one unit during the inaugural year of the school. Each of the following three years another engineering unit will be phased in and students will then experience one engineering unit each quarter. Teachers will continue to participate in professional development as they develop each of these units and build community partnerships to give students real life experiences in the areas they are learning about in school.

To learn more about the new I.J. Holton Intermediate school, log on to

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