APS Column: STEAM Days at IJ Holton

Published 5:56 pm Friday, March 24, 2023

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By Blake Henely

I.J. Holton Intermediate School Assistant Principal

Five years ago, at I.J. Holton, we formed a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Fine Arts, and Mathematics) team to help improve our STEAM days that were held once a month. This group of staff members collaborated with other educators around the state and attended a 14-day training at the Science Museum in St. Paul. It took three years of planning and preparing, but this fall I.J. Holton started a new format for our STEAM days.

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Each Friday, students participate in a 55-minute exploratory class that connects to STEAM but also post-secondary options for students. Throughout the two years, students will take eight courses, four in fifth grade and four in fourth grade. Courses range from Podcasting, Weather Forecasting, American Ninja Warrior, Building a Business, and many others. There are 38 classes available to students. Through these courses, students can be hands-on with their learning and explore careers or other educational opportunities that they may not have thought about before.

These classes are as much for the teachers who are leading them as they are for the students.  When teachers were first tasked with creating their STEAM course, they were asked what a passion of theirs is and how they could teach others about it. This new idea of STEAM was also meant to get teachers excited about teaching their new course.

As we look to improve on our new STEAM days for next year, there are a few changes we are looking at to make it a better experience for staff and students. One thing that we are excited about is allowing students to choose their courses. Starting this spring, incoming fifth graders and current Holton students will be able to pick their courses for the upcoming year. This will give students a say in picking classes that they are interested in. Another change will be offering some classes that are semester-long, versus quarter classes. The content covered in some of the classes is better suited for a semester-long course. 

This year would not be a success without all the teachers buying in and putting in the work to make these STEAM days possible. The classes students can access at I.J. Holton are unlike anywhere else in Minnesota. Staff at I.J. Holton are leading the way with innovative teaching practices with STEAM.