Science teacher adds ‘arts’ to STEM

Jen Shea has taught science at Lauralton Hall since 2003, and enters her 13th year of teaching at the school with what school officials describe as a fresh and invigorated perspective.

Having spent portions of her summer at the Pinecrest Innovation Institute in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., and the National Conference on Girls Education (NCGS) Conference, “From STEM to STEAM”, in Richmond, Va., Shea is employing new teaching styles in her classes. Most notably, she has spent many hours involved in interactive sessions focused on the transition from a traditional STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education to the STEAM approach, which adds the field of “arts” to the other four disciplines.

This not only incorporates traditional “arts,” but also includes language arts, liberal arts, and more, school officials said.

“STEAM is empowering students with skills that will help them succeed here at Lauralton Hall, in college, and beyond,” Shea said. “This is an approach that includes using creativity and critical thinking to master the content in the curriculum, as opposed to the traditional method of lecture and memorization. We are having students apply learning to real world situations in tangible and creative ways.”

From the start of the new school year, Shea has started the process of transitioning her classroom from traditional STEM to the new STEAM program. During the second week of school in a 10th grade chemistry class, students were working on making chemical masks out of paper mache. The assignment asked students to find properties of an element that relates to personal identity and build a mask representing this.

“This project not only engages the students in hands-on learning, the masks also incorporate learning about how others see one’s identity and touch on other disciplines such as history, sociology, and art,” she added.

“It is amazing the way Lauralton Hall encourages teachers to develop their skill sets and innovate,” Shea added. “The administration is very committed to continually providing opportunities for faculty, staff, and students to learn new methods and improve the school as a whole. This is a very exciting shift in education where there will be no more lecture-based teaching, and Lauralton Hall is at the forefront of these changes.”