Children are naturally curious. When they see something new, they want to know what it is, how it works or they might simply wonder, “What if?”
In Barstow’s lower school, passionate instructors take “what if” moments and turn them into “what’s next” opportunities.
What if a trip to the Barstow garden sparked a child’s passion for environmental science? What if starting Writer’s Workshop in Kindergarten brought out a child’s inner author? What if STEAM class gave a child the confidence to create computer code?
When a child’s curiosity and interests guide their learning, they want to continue to explore, to discover, to reach—and they learn that there is no limit to “what’s next.”
Todd Nelson, Director of Lower School
Curriculum Spotlight: STEAM
Barstow’s STEAM program uses science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics as access points to 21st century skills such as critical thinking, collaboration and problem solving. It produces students who take thoughtful risks, engage in experiential learning and trust their creative instincts in a world increasingly powered by innovation.
All kindergarten-grade 5 students participate in weekly STEAM classes. Children have a natural desire to build and create. STEAM allows them to apply structured thinking to their ideas. Each grade level applies the engineering design process as they create, experiment and build. By doing so, students continually improve their designs.
STEAM principles also applied across disciplines in every classroom, whether it’s grade 5 exploring the Spice Trade by building boats and charting latitude and longitude, grade 4 playing a math game to track mastodon migration or Early Childhood students experimenting with magnets, bubbles and beads. Every lower school classroom has a STEAM station stocked with challenge cards and the supplies they need to solve them.
“Innovative thinking is at the heart of the lower school STEAM program,"teacher Asha Molina said. "Students use original ideas to collaborate, build skills and bring thoughts into fruition.”
A cross-curricular project between grade 2 music students and upper school engineering design and robotics students hit all the right notes—and emphasized the “A” for arts in Barstow’s STEAM initiative.
The Lower School Student Council organizes a Lower School assembly called “Friday Forums” multiple times each year. Friday Forums provide opportunities for Lower School students to take a leadership role in promoting Lower School events to the community. Grade-levels also use the assemblies to display and present classroom projects.
Lower School students are encouraged to invite their grandparents or special friends to Grandparent Day each year. The morning begins with a special performance by the students followed by a reception in the Lower School. Students have the opportunity to share games and activities in their classrooms.
Fourth grade students participate in a day trip to Jefferson City, Missouri each spring. The field trip is designed to complement their study of different branches of government and the system of check and balances. This trip also helps prepare them for their fifth grade trip to Washington, DC. Students visit the capitol, the House of Representatives, the Supreme Court, and the governor’s mansion.
Kindergartners and seniors truly build a yearlong relationship and form the bond of friendship. They look forward to the special one-on-one “moments” with each other as they spend quality time playing games, creating works of art, writing stories, and singing. The connection from the youngest to oldest culminates with a special luncheon where the kindergartners bid the seniors farewell.
The Barstow Math Club is an opportunity to encourage creative problem solving and critical thinking skills. We make learning math as fun and as challenging as a school sport. It is a winning experience for making connections with the math content we are learning in the classroom and training for future math skill development. Each year Math Club students participate in competitions around the area.
Lower School students in fourth and fifth grade participate in the school Science Fair. Fourth graders create inventions, while fifth graders work on experiments that are judged by faculty from each division upon completion. Many students go on to compete in the Greater Kansas City Science Fair each year.
The Lower School Student Council is designed to provide additional leadership opportunities to students in third through fifth grade. Members of Student Council serve one semester. Students in Lower School Student Council plan and participate in Friday Forums, community service projects and Lower School fun events.
Fifth grade students embark on a weeklong adventure to Washington, DC and Colonial Williamsburg each spring. The students prepare for the trip with the study of U.S. history, geography and economic concepts. They gain an extensive understanding of how government works as well as citizenship skills, cultural awareness, and research methods using primary and secondary sources.
Each spring our students participate in athletic and fun competitions in a half-day long field day. Students in kindergarten through third grade are divided into teams and spend the day rotating between athletic activities. The competitions are a time for students to display the abilities they have learned in physical education class. The atmosphere is fun and friendly and ends with a picnic lunch.