In 2014, Bluffton Elementary became a school of choice for Animation, Creation and Design. Animation, Creation and Design places an emphasis on curriculum that encourages hands-on engagement, problem solving, critical thinking and the use of technology for research, collaboration and project presentation. Students learn coding through WeDO robotics, LEGO robotics, app creation and a variety of apps. The program includes a gaming component, which allows students to create, design and utilize games to explore content. The Animation Arts component includes 2D, 3D and stop motion animation. Students create individual animations to display their knowledge of content standards. An outdoor classroom is under construction at the ECC. This outdoor classroom will allow students to have a more creative approach to their educational standards through discovery. Research has shown that children can reinforce, apply and enrich traditional skills in an outdoor classroom. It is a natural extension of the indoor classroom. Allowing students to move freely and explore in an open space. This includes our on campus ponds, gardens, shade structure and meeting circle constructed of logs.
Bluffton Elementary is currently part of the STEM Foundations Partnership with Discovery Education. Discovery Education is providing research-based professional development to help maintain STEM learning practices to support Beaufort County and Bluffton Elementary’s STEM Learning Profile. Based on skills gained in the professional development, teachers in all grades met over the summer to align their content standards to STEM expectations and our school choice.
Early Childhood Center – Grades Prekindergarten – First Grade
Students in the Early Childhood Center begin learning the basics of coding by using Ozobots. These robots are coded through the use of primary colors. They progress to using Dash and Dot and WeDo robots within a related arts rotation as well as in the classrooms for grades kindergarten and first. Teachers discuss coding specific vocabulary and provide collaborative experiences for the students. During the collaborative work, the teacher acts as a facilitator, allowing students to problem solve and utilize critical thinking skills to program and build their robots.
The technology also extends to basic understandings. The students are 1 to 1 with iPads in the classrooms. In the tech lab, they work with laptops. The students begin learning Word in Kindergarten and PowerPoint or presentation design in first grade. The students discuss the hardware as well as software components for computers during the tech lab related art.
Students are building the foundations for being a STEM learner by collaborating, problem solving, constructing devices and models, and establishing reasoning skills. The foundations allow the students to enhance and build once they are in the main building.
Main Bluffton Elementary Building – Second through fifth grades
Second through fifth grades rotate through a series of related arts that are STEM based. They have elementary engineering, introduction to game design, art through animation, and a teacher sign-up science lab. These classes allow students to increase their STEM skills and technology knowledge.
In the elementary engineering class, students work with Lego Mindstorms to complete complex challenges as collaborative teams. The students receive badges for each accomplishment.
Introduction to Game Design introduces students to game design through analysis, application and discussion of the space, mechanics, player and the design decisions that create the game. With in-class play and design exercises, students explore the design process through game immersion and the idea of challenge, conflict and reward. Ultimately, students decide on a target audience and create a game designed for that audience. Students provide critical feedback to their peers on their designs.
Art through Animation allows students to not only work on artistic ability but create content related animations. Students design storyboards either in the art room or in the classroom depending on the standard addressed. The students then create an animated story of that standard and share it with others. Students in Animation Club have even created animations of Kindergarten standards to use at the Early Childhood Center.
The science lab is the scientific experimental area for a completed classroom unit. The students come to the lab during the Science time to work on the lab associated with their current unit. Teachers sign-up to bring their students once the content standards have been completed in the classroom.
An addition this year in the main building is a MakerSpace. The MakerSpace is an area designed for students to create and explore. At times, students will be presented with a task to complete with very little directions from the teacher. An example includes: students designing a bridge that is a certain height and supports a designated weight. The students will have access to multiple mediums to complete each designated task/design. The MakerSpace has MakeyMakey kits, Arduino kits, K’nets, Legos, a green screen, a variety of tools, art supplies, PVC, circuit boards and Raspberry Pi kits, as well as a variety of other materials. This space is utilized by teacher sign-up.
Learning Experiences for Improvement
One of the biggest issues for Bluffton Elementary is keeping pace with the students as they progress through the STEM levels from Prekindergarten through fifth grade. The elementary level coding and gaming resources are limited in scope and sequence. Many of the resources available are secondary level focused. The teachers are adjusting upper level materials to meet the current needs of our students. As STEM and Computer Science become more widespread, the resources should grow. The partnership with United Kingdom and Discovery Education are helping us keep pace at this time. While this partnership has been pivotal to the foundation of our school of choice it is also limiting in some areas. Discovery Education has a vast library of coding lessons for the United Kingdom but hasn’t shifted it to the United States yet. We are working with them to rush the change. The staff has been diligent in locating new, innovative approaches to address the STEM activities and meet the needs of our students.