There has been much discussion about how the upcoming Cold Spring School bond measure will impact the members of the school community, but it is worth pausing to consider how this measure will impact the current and future students.
Cold Spring School has a strong culture of providing students with an enriching environment where creativity and curiosity flourish. Music, drama, and art have been foundational programs of the Cold Spring student experience — allowing students to find and follow passions through exposure to a variety of models of learning.
The newest discipline to join the Cold Spring School enrichment program is STEAM, an integrated class that weaves the learning of core curriculum into hands-on engineering and design projects. Students work in collaborative teams to tackle real-world problems that have no prescriptive solution. Through these challenges, students apply content knowledge that is concurrent with classroom instruction, but the outcomes are far more substantial than simply deepening math and science skills. By working through open-ended projects, students become resourceful and strategic. Resilience grows as the fear of failure ebbs, and students become comfortable with an iterative design process. As a STEAM program, we are bold — and our message to students is Yes. Can I make a robot city? Yes. Can I build a solar powered boat? Yes. Can I restore this ecosystem? Yes. We intentionally work at the threshold of our capacity, knowing that it is in this space that we experience the most growth.
Since launching the STEAM program, Cold Spring students have installed bat boxes and birdhouses; they’ve built custom ukuleles, programmed homemade robots, planted a native garden, and designed a chicken coop for our hopeful campus food forest. The list of student projects is dynamic, and it fluctuates in response to the interests and passions of each cohort. While that means there is little resting on the work of old projects, it also means student voice and autonomy is a driving force behind the work we do. All paths point back to the kids.
I recognize that in so many ways, we are at the beginning of this journey. There are few elementary STEAM models that are as student-centered, and this is made possible by the support of the community around us. Our Westmont Science Mentor program brings university students into the classroom — providing individualized assistance to students, as well as aiding in project fabrication for our 178 (and growing) students. High school alumni volunteer weekly to maintain robots, work in the garden, and prototype projects. As a school we have been resourceful in making our STEAM program successful. A converted classroom is our lab space. Community grants through Village Properties and QAD are largely responsible for our technology tools. We have successfully made it through our proof-of-concept phase, and are on the cusp of joining the ranks of countless other public and private schools in developing a shared Art and STEAM lab that will continue to help our students grow and thrive.
Preparing students for the future is ingrained in the culture of Cold Spring. We have taken pride in how well we poise our graduates to take on the world beyond elementary school. As our community considers this bond, I would offer that investing in our kids is the greatest gift we can give them — and it is an investment that will come back to us. One of the questions we ask in STEAM is, “How does my solution make the world a better place for others?” When considering the impact of this bond on the community, let us not forget that our students are also members of the community. On their behalf, we have an opportunity to cast a wider net, open more doors to learning, spark more joy, fuel more passion, and ultimately make this world a better place. Should we vote in favor of L2020? Yes.
Dr. Jean Gradias is a STEAM teacher at Cold Spring School.