AISZ is the third international school that Thomsen has brought STEAM project-based learning to. During his prior 14 years of teaching in the US, he directed and organized twelve Science Olympiad competitions, giving him a strong background in organizing large science-based events for schools.
In teams of two to three students, our budding engineers built 10-13 self-directed projects ranging from catapults and energy transfer models to Lego robotics almost completely on their own. Through their own internet research and problem solving skills, the projects were completed within five weeks.
The STEAM method involves letting students teach themselves through the engineering design process, which Thomsen summarizes as “build it, break it, redesign it, rebuild it!” Fearful and incredulous at first at the idea of teaching themselves, enthusiasm built quickly, and soon many students were begging to come in and work on their projects after school. Students documented each step of their design process in writing and drawings as well, keeping daily logs just like real engineers do.
The whole school participated in the culminating STEAM Fest on April 14. Following a round-robin rotation throughout the school, every team demonstrated their own devices to small groups of students, parents, and teachers. They also showed a short summary video (also made completely on their own) which explained their whole creative process to each group. Younger students and their teachers were given ways to participate, which was especially popular. One student who could not be present Skyped in to present his part of his team's project from Dubai, and even fielded questions from the audience.