HEMET – Cawston Elementary School staff has left the idea of traditional homework behind and is creating monthly family projects that focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics. Instead of students spending time on worksheets, they are encouraged to create something with their families.
A lot of thought and research went into the implementation of the STEAM Family Projects. Cawston Principal Dr. Colleen Flavin said staff members have been studying the effects of students who do not have homework. She said the Cawston team began to implement the idea of monthly projects last year and have been thrilled with the increased involvement students and their families have shown. Each month, kindergarten through fifth-grade students are given a project that is STEAM related. Although all students are given the same project, the guidelines of what students are expected to do will vary by grade level. The intent of these projects is to promote critical thinking skills as students plan, test and improve designs to the best of their ability.
Students were asked to build a shelter for September’s project. Students would draw a blueprint of their design, build their design, list materials they used, describe their idea and fill out a reflection sheet. The reflection sheet asked students how their project works, what challenges they faced, how they could improve it and what subject area they used throughout the project.
Flavin said she has been impressed by the number of projects she has seen as well as the thought that was put into them. However, one project stood out due to its great effort and creativity. Anine Stadick, a fifth-grade student, created a “Shelter for Your Thoughts.” She thought about what a shelter meant to her and saw it as a means to provide protection. Her idea was to make a safe place where students could write down what is on their mind, and their teacher could access their submissions and help them with concerns they may have.
“My parents are my shelter where I know I can always go to with questions or problems, but other kids may not have the shelter of parents or an adult to help them,” Stadick said. She hopes teachers will create a “Shelter for Your Thoughts” for their classrooms to help teachers better understand what students are feeling. The shelter that Stadick made is currently in the Cawston library and nearly 40 students have written a note and put it in the “Shelter for Your Thoughts.”