Educator of the Week Gets S.T.E.A.M.’ed Up!

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Connie Boltz incorporates visual arts and parent participation to inspire students’ personal and academic growth. She has been an educator for 20 years and currently teaches at Colvin Run Elementary in Vienna, Virginia.

Connie Boltz has a “S.T.E.A.M. Moment” with one of her dynamic collaborators! Photo by Jeff Boltz
Connie Boltz has a “S.T.E.A.M. Moment” with one of her dynamic collaborators.
Photo by Jeff Boltz

Activity: S.T.E.A.M. Kids
Subjects: Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math
Grade: Kindergarten

Tell us about your activity.

The S.T.E.A.M. Kids project empowers students to explore their passions through art. Students create “S.T.E.A.M. Kid” glyph figures, symbolizing what they love about S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) and character traits they value.

Using the visual arts as the tool of understanding, the project aims to help students identify their goals and interests, make global connections, and find relationships between new and familiar information.

Each glyph is unique in design, but also in what character traits and academic interests are represented.

Different shapes and colors symbolize different characteristics: orange rhombus for Courage, green square for Responsibility, blue triangle for Respect, red circle for Compassion, and a yellow star for Honesty.

As these figures are displayed, students have a chance to learn about what characteristics their classmates identify with.

Students from Connie's class collaborating on their STEAM glyphs. Photo by
Kindergartners work on their personalized S.T.E.A.M. Kids.
Photo by Connie Boltz

How long was this activity and what did you prepare ahead of time?

This project successfully involved 40 adults, including teachers in science, arts, kindergarten, and counseling, along with 100 kindergarten students.

It took approximately 100 hours to plan and an hour-and-a-half of student time to accomplish. The S.T.E.A.M. glyphs were Xeroxed in advance and families were invited to send in 3-D stickers that reflected their child’s academic focus.

Work stations were set up in each of our four kindergarten classrooms, and parents collaboratively supported students.

Marley Petersen shows off her glyph in Connie's classroom. Photo by Connie Boltz
A kindergartner shows off her glyph in Connie’s classroom.
Photo by Connie Boltz

Describe the student impact of this lesson. Was their a change in thought process, behavior, perspective?

Students’ critical and creative thinking skills improved through this activity!

Across the Colvin Run classes that participated, the statistics showed that 94% of students used analogy, 89% were able to visualize, and 100% connected to a new level of original thinking during the S.T.E.A.M. Kids project.

Do you have a favorite book, blog, or quote that inspires you in your personal life or in your teaching?

Rita Pierson is one of my personal heroes! In her TED talk, “Every Kid Needs a Champion,” she issued the compelling challenge to educators to believe in their students and actually connect with them on a real, human, personal level. I have adopted the following quote as the teaching goal for my life:

Every kid deserves a champion: an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists they become the best they can possibly be.

—Rita Pierson

If you had one classroom superpower, what would it be?

I would love to have the superpower of “Ms. Frizzle!” Every time my students and I view one of her broadcasts, we are motivated toward innovative learning. It is a theme I would like to use for my classroom next year! I think it would be fun to construct the Magic School Bus with my class and use it in creative and imaginative ways. “Students, get ready for an exciting September!!!”

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The Educator of the Week series features inspiring activities and lessons that educators are implementing with their students that connect them to the world in bold and exciting ways.

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