Lower School STEAM is Extraordinary by Design

STEAM, one of York Country Day School’s signature programs, ignites curiosity and infuses dynamic learning experiences for all students.  Students incorporate critical thinking and innovative strategies to identify solutions to complex questions. YCDS’s STEAM curriculum blends these academic realms, rather than dated traditional methods with a siloed approach to instruction, and partners this robust curriculum with experiential and project-based learning experiences.   All students at YCDS take part in STEAM learning experiences including our PreK students who refine their directionality and literacy while programming and navigating Beebot technology that moves among various objects and letters. 

In Ms. Wallace’s Kindergarten class, STEAM naturally occurs in each day through play and exploration of content areas. Throughout the year, students are challenged to create original constructions for the Machine Show in February. First, students learn simple machines such as levers, catapults, and pulleys in Robotics and Engineering classes. Then students are challenged to recognize a problem in their daily life or community and brainstorm problem-solving strategies to improve the problem. 

Students work through the Engineering process in the Robotics Lab each week to design their chosen machines based on blueprints that they create. “It is my role to ask questions such as ‘What do you notice? What else can you try?’ This promotes critical thinking at a young age,” explains Ms. Wallace. Evie has chosen to design a machine that will make bowling balls. “I just really love to bowl, and I do not get to go a lot. My machine will help people get to bowl whenever they want!” She began this project with a blueprint and then found recyclable items that matched the shapes included in this design. Each piece of the machine has meaning or serves a particular purpose for the success of the machine. “It is ok to discover flaws in their design,” explains Ms. Wallce, “We continuously test, correct, and try something new. This is all part of the engineering process.” Students will also visit the York College Engineering Department to work alongside college students and professors on a STEAM activity related to their machine project. Students present their machine at the Machine Show in February. 

Each grade five student designs a lamp based on discarded items that are recyclable, which incorporates the form and functioning of a lamp. Throughout York City, there are “found art sculptures” that incorporate repurposed recycled items. Students visited these sculptures with the Cultural Alliance of York to obtain a stronger understanding and background knowledge of how to repurpose and upcycle found objects in order to create an aesthetic concept. Students are inspired to create their own found object design in the form of a lamp. “This is a challenging project because they have to visualize a concept in a three-dimensional form, which is something students are not usually able to do until middle school,” explains Ms. Royer, the Lower School Art Teacher. “It is simply amazing to see the way students are capable of taking something old and making it brand new.”  Jensen designed his lamp to look like an octopus emerging from a porthole. “I first thought about making something about a ship, and then I decided the concept of an octopus and a ship made it more interesting,” explains Jensen.

In robotics and engineering class, students study circuits and electrical engineering and then apply this skill set in designing a functioning lamp. “Executing the engineering process becomes so authentic. Students persist in solving design challenges that inevitably arise in order to create a product that is both functional and beautiful,” states Susan Danner, the Lower School Robotics and Engineering teacher. Josiah has designed his lamp to look like a turtle. “My favorite part of this project has been tinkering with the electrical circuits,” states Josiah, “I originally thought about making my turtle on four legs, but the circuitry is best wired when it is upright. Redesigning has been challenging, but I like it.”

Sarah has enjoyed building her base with woodworking tools in the Robotics and Engineering Lab. “Making the scale model before building helped me figure out how big it would be. It looks a little different than I expected. I am trying to figure out how to make my colors more vibrant. I am proud of how it is turning out,” describes Sarah.

When students have completed their lamp, they will create marketing materials, a background scene, and claymation for a commercial in VidCast class to present at the Lamp Show in April. 

Implementing effective STEAM practices and 21st Century skills in Lower School allows students to take ownership of their learning and formulate possible solutions to challenges. 

Please join us at our OPEN HOUSE on Sunday, February 9, to learn more about our extraordinary STEAM program along with our other YCDS Signature Programs, including Capstone 5812, Service Learning, YCDS College Connect, and Center for Wellness. If you are unable to visit YCDS during our scheduled Open House, please contact Jamie Graham, Director of Admissions, at 717-815-6759 or jgraham14@ycds.org, to schedule a personal tour.