Let’s Bridge STEAM and ESL!


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Today in two of my classes, I had my students build a marshmallow tower! Now, these classes I teach are a little special. We don’t read regular ESL textbooks, we read a newspaper geared for students. This paper comes out monthly and it features a variety of articles. They cover foreign and domestic current events, fun activities, and a center topic (such as the Olympics, or dog shows, or pop stars).

In this month’s edition, we read an article about the Eiffel Tower and how the city of Paris plans to renovate it. That gave me the idea to have the students build a tower of their own.

I had two classes do this simultaneously in two separate rooms. I split the classes up into teams. There were three teams in each class. I had another teacher monitor and help the second class since I couldn’t be in two classrooms at once.  Before the activity, I prepared a worksheet with a couple of pre-activity questions for the students to fill out. Each team was tasked to build a tower using just marshmallows and chopsticks after a brief explanation. The chopsticks acted as their rods and the marshmallows acted as their joints to hold the structure together.

I showed a couple of examples from the Internet to help the students brainstorm.

Here are photos.

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How does this bridge STEAM and ESL?

STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics. The focus of this activity was to help students think in new ways, as well as use their English communication skills. They had to explain how to join the marshmallows and chopsticks and discuss what shapes were strongest for the base. I helped out, too, giving pointers and showing a few tricks.

Without realizing it, these students are building problem solving skills (math skills), understanding of how rods and joints work (science and technology), and creativity skills (arts). Also they practiced communicating in English. Next week, when we have class again, the students will fill out the post-activity portion of the worksheet I prepared. It’s an evaluation and give them the chance to reflect on what they learnt and how they can improve on their design.

Everybody had a lot of fun and they learnt new skills. This is an activity I’d recommend to anyone who’s looking for something fun to do as well as develop other skills. Multidisciplinary experiential education is an excellent way to practice “whole brain” education.

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Filed under Elementary Students, Engineering, ESL, Fun, Korea, Science, Teaching

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