Steam Teacher Burlington

What are the interactions between species in our watershed?


That was the question we asked students to answer when prompted to draw a picture for their final watershed project in 5th grade. This project occurred last year, but was by far, one of the favorites of teachers, parents and students alike.

It began when I procured a grant from Generator to make this project possible. Joni Pecor, 5th grade teacher, and I, wrote a proposal for the project in connected with their watershed unit. With this generous grant, we were able to bring in Peter Katz, the artist who inspired our mosaics, and whose work at the time was being shown at the Generator. He worked with the entire 5th grade in showing them how he created his nature-themed mosaics.

With that, the students set to work with the help of Janine Plumer, our art teacher. Students created mind maps and then drew pictures that depicted how they would answer the essential question above in a visual form.

They then, turned these drawings into mosaics by ¨chunking¨ the individual parts of the drawings. Many colored them after we scanned them to get a sense of what their mosaic would look like in the end, and to choose the three or four colors they would like.

Once scanned, Janine, myself, Mr. Clarke, our principal, and Generator member, Alex Swaisgood, worked tirelessly on Adobe Illustrator, to make sure each one was neat enough to send to the Generator´s laser cutter. Once there, each mosaic was etched into a piece of baltic birch wood bought from The TreeHouse.

Myself, and Keith Brown, took turns picking up the finished laser cut pieces from Generator and delivering them back to Flynn Elementary. It was then, in STEAM and their homeroom classrooms, the mosaics began to come to life.

Each student measured, cut and glued kite paper to the back of their mosaics. It took a long time and really tested each students patience and endurance.

In the end, the mosaics were displayed at our Maker Faire, the classrooms, and some were entered in World Water Day, which won our entire 5th grade a free trip on the Spirit of Ethan Allen. It was a lot of work, but well worth it for the beauty of the end product. It was also an amazing way to see how so many different facets of people can work together to provide an ¨out of the box¨ hands on, minds on project for students that is connected to their science curriculum.