Julia Dweck

Four ways STEAM made a positive impact on an elementary school teacher


Julia Dweck is an elementary school teacher in Pennsylvania and an early adopter of STEAM learning in her school. While doing so, she also became one of its first female coding role models and aficionados. Having taught K-5 in the classroom for several years, she has been at the heart of STEAM curriculum implementation and edtech evolution at Willow Lane Elementary School. She has experienced first hand the impact that this cross-curricular learning philosophy can have on students. And in the wake of a worrying trend of a sharp increase in coding required roles yet a decrease in female participation, Julia is determined to prove that STEAM can generate a positive impact in addressing these challenge. Here are the four ways she was able to do it. 

Thriving in the cross-curriculum approach 

To successfully implement a lesson plan for a single subject is tricky enough, let alone a cross-curricular lesson, like STEAM. From the outset, there is a clear and present danger that STEAM’s high-energy, talkative learning environment takes away the element of teacher control. Even the term ‘hands-on’ learning provokes images of mischievous males throwing blocks and buzzers around the classroom and finding new ways to wreak havoc on the sanity of primary school teachers. Luckily that hasn’t been the case, and for Julia, planning lessons has become progressively easier over time, 

"I have been using SAM Labs for a few years but have made up my own lessons and it is so great to have a cross-curriculum supply of lessons to be able to adapt and use. It has made it so much easier for me to focus on adapting rather than creating from scratch. I have had much more fun with the planning and it has taken out much of the stress and pressure of time.”

For more STEAM support methods, visit this blog on STEAM vs. STEM Learning for K-12.

Increasing teacher confidence with limited time to prepare

Creating teacher confidence is a primary concern for K-12 educators and district leads, particularly with STEM and STEAM learning, where there is scant time to trial lessons let along core subjects. There is a growing need to equip students with the skills required for future roles yet alarmingly, only 10 percent of educators, who are responsible for preparing students for the future workforce, feel confident teaching higher-level tech skills, according to a 2018 PwC survey. Preparation time will always be a major challenge for K-12 teachers and that’s why SAM Labs’ lesson plans focus heavily on being easy to implement in the classroom. Julia explains,  

"The ready-made lessons help you grow your confidence until you are ready to fly on your own, developing lessons that fit your style and curricular needs.”


Demystifying abstract concepts - Real-world application

The irony of passive learning through textbooks as a medium, particularly in Science and Maths, is that it has been such a long-standing method of learning that it seems like the most appropriate way to teach and learn. While there are merits in the passive learning approach, it left active learning in the awkward position of needing to prove itself through numerous research studies that demonstrate the efficacy of using real-world examples in improving student engagement and test scores. But the fact that kids enjoy active learning is half the battle. Julia says about STEAM,

"I especially love the lessons in which students are creating some real-world objects, like the music box and guitar lessons, the students love these types of lessons.”

For more lesson ideas follow this link (and don’t forget to set up a free account to see more)

Closing the gender gap in STEAM starts in the classroom

Tackling the gender gap with female coders starts in the classroom well before children are thinking about what to major in.

“The proportion of female students majoring in computing in college is not just low – it has fallen dramatically. In 1984, 37% of computer science majors in the U.S. were women. Today, only 18% are, according to a study by Accenture.”

A student’s choice of subjects to major in depends not just on where their strengths lie, but a multitude of positive reinforcements associated with the subject. These reinforcements come from the interactions with the teacher, not just the result of their test scores, and if the student regularly receives positive reinforcement from someone they relate to, or aspire to be like, this has a significant impact, 

“For many of my girls, I'm one of the first female coding role models. The fact that I'm taking chances, making mistakes, persisting, and eventually overcoming obstacles, inspires them to do the same”.

Who are SAM Labs?

SAM Labs provides everything you need to deliver the most engaging STEAM and Coding learning experience in your classroom. We give educators like Julia the tools and support to make the most of their lessons, making learning interactive and engaging.

To learn more about SAM Labs contact us at info@samlabs.com

Learn from more teachers about how they used SAM Labs’ lesson kits >