Reading the Model: Expanded Model
The model may be understood as "up and down" (vertically) or "right to left" (horizontally).
Reading "vertically", the 7 Crosscutting Concepts are at the top. They first pass through "Practices" (meaning, the concepts connect with the best practices and are shaped by the way they may be taught as related to the content area) and then they create connections between the many disciplines of the elementary learning areas. So, for example, "Patterns" could be a unit in itself, first coming in contact with the may modes of teaching that could be used, then in each discipline, Patterns are found and highlighted in ways authentic to that area of study. So for example, there may take place in Reading, Writing and Communicating (English language studies) a study in spelling patterns as related to sounds, in math students may examine patterns that exist in a base 10 system, in science there may be exploration of weather patterns, social studies may be patterns of movement and settlement across the west, etc. By focusing on Patterns, students can transfer information in many different and diverse ways gaining a deep understanding for the concept of Patterns, which provides a foundation for STEM thinking.
Here is an example:
The Model may also be applied "horizontally". For example, in Reading Writing and Communicating, best practices shape the approaches used. Teachers could follow an exisitng unit and highlight the Corsscutting Concepts as they arise. While reading "Bridge to Terebithia", students could find patterns of language that create emotion, cause and effect of charecter actions, scale, proportion and quantity in connecting the story with other stories or events, systems and models in symbolism, energy and matter by connecting charecters through their relationships, structure and function by examining grammer, and stability and change by looking at the evolution of charecters. By doing this in each area in ways that are authentic to learning in that area, students again find threaded integration. In each class, they see the Crosscutting Concepts in many dimensions and from many angles, and teachers can use common language to facilitate interdisciplinary studies. By using the Crosscutting Concepts as a STEM framework of thought, content areas outside the traditional STEM content areas are connected, valued, and enhanced in the STEM iniative.
Here is another example:
This example used with permission from author Eryn Beyrouty
We believe there is a misconception of many schools that the projects, programs, or statistics define a quality STEM school. If students are engaged in STEM related clubs, winning science fairs, going on to STEM careers, or achieving success on tests in STEM areas, people tend to identify these schools as "STEM schools", pointing to these outward achievements as the school going above and beyond. We see these not as a definition, but as outcomes. The Shepardson Model proposes that with STEM integration throughout the school day and within every content areas, the outcomes will be extensions and evidences of success of the STEM program, not pre-established targets. The Shepardson STEM Model is based on a strong in-school program where every student (not just advanced or gifted students) can be STEM thinkers and achievers. When students are thinkers and achievers, the projects, clubs, awards, scores, and enthusiasm follow. The outcomes also provide channels and direction for teachers and supporters to direct interested students and community members. The Shepardson STEM Model sees the outcomes of Citizen Science and Authentic Research, Invention, Problem-solving, Creation and Expression, Cultivation of STEM Identity, and Scientific Literacies and Evidence Based Community Action as 4 domains of evidence and visible products of STEM program success.
As students grow to see the ways the Crosscutting Concepts influence our lives and thinking, they want to make meaning of them and apply them to novel ideas. The outcomes give a structure to ways they may be expressed in new ways according to each student. By taking the learning that happens and channeling it into outcome domains, students find the next level of STEM- what it means to them, their future, and our future. A model of integration is not enough. Neither is having a school with a winning Lego Robotics team where everyone else in the school is maintaining the status-quo. The Shepardson STEM Model outcomes can give teachers, students, and volunteers ways to focus, channel, and facilitate authentic and student centered growth for all. Students that emerge from a STEM school having achieved full success in the outcomes will be students who have been successful learners in their classrooms and who are ready to tackle the next challenges, not because they have been selected or trained, but because they have learned.
Integration is the Key
Integration across the curriculum is the difference between a STEM school and a school with a science and math emphasis or a school with a STEM class. True integration is difficult and clumsy when the foundations of the integration are content or practice. Finding a perfect science book to teach reading is not always possible, available, or interesting. Teachers find that in the course of the day they may use many methods, some very specific to content areas, such as specific instructional techniques used for reading, such that science and STEM best practices of inquiry are not always the most appropriate. Adding state standards or curricula on top of this makes a content or practice based approach almost impossible to meet these specific requirements of time, texts, and content.
A focus on meta-curricular concepts, however, provide the framework and avenues to integrate diverse areas without dictating what is taught or how. With the selection of the Crosscutting Concepts from the NextGen Standards, these meta-curricular concepts are firmly and without question in the realm of STEM. Science and math may be emphasized, and a STEM school would have a natural inclination to include engineering and technology, but in terms of why a STEM school is a STEM school, it boils down to making sure STEM is in every class and every subject. The Shepardson STEM Model does this with concepts.
Applying the Model
The purpose of a Model is to share with others a structure and framework of function. As described above, the model focuses on instruction connected to 7 Crosscutting meta-curricular concepts. It does not dictate instructional methods or content. Familiarity with the foundations of Threaded Integration and the NextGen Standards Crosscutting Concepts are key. Beyond that, how the concepts are integrated is up to the creativity and expertise of the teachers and school administrators. At Shepardson Elementary School, some teachers chose to do activities focusing on a particular concept, others will plan units specific to their standards and go through to highlight the crosscutting concepts. Some teachers do both, organizing materials according to the Crosscutting Concepts in one content area and in others using a content-based framework. Teachers use individual and team approaches as well- some classrooms have the 7 Crosscutting Concepts posted on the walls and add to them when students find connections, others use very innovative and creative approaches, such as "pipecleaner 3-D concept maps" where students use pipecleaners with attached words to connect and add ideas to show thinking through the relationships. Students may keep a concept journal or the concepts may be used to structure a portfolio. Shepardson Elementary has a dedicated STEM time, and the concepts may provide ideas or activities for stations, small group work, projects, or inventions. The expectation is that how different content connects with the Crosscutting Concepts is inevitably going to be unique to the teacher and students, as it is an extension of how big ideas manifest in the classroom. It is a chance for teachers to explore their own creativity, share their own interests, and encourage students to think out of the box. When you think of a concept such as "Patterns" (for example) the options are truly without end- from tangrams and blocks to binary code, spelling to series books, Mozart to Fibonacci, butterfly wings to economics. Yet Patterns are a key component of STEM understandings, and by finding them in such diverse areas strengthens the thinking that surrounds it. The same is true with the other 6 concepts.