Global Partnerships Bring STEAM to Life at McGehee

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In Global Storybook Engineers, students read fairy tales and then engineer solutions to help rescue the characters.

Guest blog post by Margaret Ann Minihan, Director of Technology at Louise S. McGehee School

At Louise S. McGehee School, an all-girls school in New Orleans, Louisiana, we know about teaching girls. Research tells us that girls learn differently and are motivated differently than male students. Girls learn best through hands-on activities that give them the opportunity to help others and make a difference in the world. In light of this research, McGehee offers its students several service learning opportunities in the regular curriculum.

This year, we’re trying a new program that is further inspiring our girls’ passion for STEAM (STEM + arts). Our students are learning hands-on Science and Engineering skills, while collaborating one-on-one with partners in developing countries. This innovative program, provided by Level Up Village (LUV), is a welcome addition to our afterschool enrichment program.

In Global Storybook Engineers, led by McGehee Science teacher Renee Yeaton, Kindergarten through second graders combine literature with engineering to design and build solutions to problems encountered in their reading. For example, they recently read Tomie dePaola’s Strega Nona and then constructed a barrier that would have saved the town from an avalanche of pasta! Their partners at NicaPhoto in Nicaragua follow the same curriculum, and then the two groups of children exchange video messages to share design ideas.

“Students also ask each other questions like what’s your favorite food, animal, or game,” said Mrs. Yeaton. “Through the video exchange, we learn that even though these students may be far away and speak a different language, we are alike in many ways.”

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Students dissect a worm in Global Doctors: Anatomy at McGehee School

In two sections of Global Doctors: Anatomy, both led by McGehee Science teacher Annie Tete, girls in 3rd-5th grades and 6th-8th grades are exploring anatomy and physiology through hands-on dissections of earthworms, frogs, sharks, and more. They then share their experiences with their global partners at Mayar in Karachi and Pioneers Baccalaureate Schools in Nablus.  

Mrs. Tete said, “By engaging with our Global Partners in Pakistan and Palestine, students get to learn about global health concerns while making new friends across the world!”

In my Global Inventors/3D printing class,  3rd and 4th graders are using CAD (computer aided design) software to invent a product that would solve a problem either for themselves or for their global partners. They then share their designs with their global partners at Uganda’s oldest girls school, Gayaza High School. Students are not only learning about the design and engineering cycle, but are also learning from their new friends about Ugandan culture and traditions. It is difficult for me to tell which the girls in my class like better: inventing in 3D or talking with their partners about their ideas!

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Two girls in LUV’s Global Inventors course at McGehee come by to check on the progress of their 3D prints.

Level Up Village’s courses are a natural fit at McGehee. We like the fact that by partnering with Level Up Village, we are directly sponsoring Global STEAM education in developing countries through LUV’s “take a class, give a class” model. Moreover, students involved in these courses are able to develop 21st century skills through hands-on science and engineering projects. The global component of this program is especially exciting and gives students the extraordinary opportunity to work together with their partners, while simultaneously learning about daily life in the developing world in a personal and meaningful way.