Jewish Community Day in Metairie adds STEAM to fifth grade

The Jewish Community Day School in Metairie is going full “STEAM” ahead with new programs for fifth grade this year, while putting the brakes on Kindergarten for one year.

This year will be the inception of STEAM at the school. Head of School Sharon Pollin said the fifth grade students will be guided in interdisciplinary instruction with an emphasis on STEAM education, which is the acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Math. “In line with the school’s mission to instill a love of learning, invigorated by academic excellence, STEAM students will explore each discipline and integrate these skills to encourage critical thinking, problem solving, the use of digital tools and innovation,” she said.

Lisa Vaughan, who will head the program, attended a two day “STEAM Camp” training session in New Orleans. “I’m excited as an educator” Ms. Vaughan said, “because STEAM doesn’t ‘teach to the test,’ but instead allows students to work together in real-world situations to achieve a goal and develop skills that will help them become successful life-long learners.”

STEAM, reflecting the acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, adds the letter “A” for the arts to help students visualize unfamiliar STEM concepts. For example, in Philadelphia, through the Philadelphia Arts in Education Partnership, research has verified that STEAM “students better understand abstract concepts in science and mathematics, such as fractions and geometric shapes, through art-making projects.” The JCDS STEAM program will likewise enable students to use their content knowledge in one area to conceptualize others.

Pollin said the goal is for students to progress through their educational lives, through middle school and beyond, integrating the STEAM program to make connections between the disciplines.

The school also announced the “strategic decision for this year only” to suspend Kindergarten “in alignment with the JCDS purpose as a model of educational excellence.” The school already has several commitments for the 2015-16 Kindergarten class and will continue to expand that number in the coming year.

The 2015-16 class will “reflect the JCDS mission of academic excellence and Jewish values in our community day school.”