STEAM by Design

Maker Monday: 2015 - 2016 Reflection

Highlighted in this Maker Monday are the major themes and milestones that helped set the course of STEAM by Design, an approach to maker education with a design focus that I've been developing.

For those interested in reading more about this process, here are some of my published pieces from the school year:

NAIS - Maker Education, Global Collaboration, Service Learning, Design Thinking

GettingSmart - Engaging Parents, Maker Education

LIttleBits - SGCS Case Study, STEAM

Stanford FabLearn Conference - White Paper Submission on STEAM by Design

Meaningful Making - FabLearn's New Book on Making in Schools


With all of the innovative ideas that students and teachers have been engaging in this year, it's easy to forget that d.lab has only been open a little more than four months.

However, even before it opened, SGCS teachers were not only incorporating STEAM into their curriculum, some even turned their classrooms into mini makerspaces. Kudos to Kindergarten, 2nd Grade, 4th Grade ELA, LS Art & Spanish, 5th Grade, and 8th Grade Science teachers for all of their hard work and collaboration!

The 2015 Highlights section captures just a few of the standout moments such as:

SGCS students participating in several events like the first ever National Maker Faire in Washington, D.C., the Barnes & Noble Mini Maker Faire, New Worlds Institute, and Student Startup Crawl; leading a workshop and representing St. Gabriel's as part of an education panel at the Stanford FabLearn Conference; plus plenty of making, game design, 3D design, and coding in the classroom.

The opening of d.lab in 2016 was a watershed moment where months of planning and preparation were finally put into effect.

Starting with class tours and a student Maker Club, the pace really picked up "steam" with teachers throughout JK - 8 exploring a diverse range of topics like: design thinking, materials science, fabrication tools and techniques, invention literacy, programming, robotics, 3D printing, engineering, and entrepreneurship with our first School Maker Faire as a culminating event that showcased student learning. See the 2016 Highlights for some examples of these in action.

Throughout the year, there were also opportunities to share the St. Gabriel's story with others beyond our own campus. From leading training seminars for the most recent EdExchange Fellowship cohort, presenting and exhibiting at SXSW Interactive and Edu, Maker Faire Austin, and other events, it was an honor to spotlight the remarkable things taking place on our campus.


Besides looking at what has happened this year, also helpful to examine the why and how behind STEAM by Design.

As Here's How You Teach Innovative Thinking argues, "students can no longer be content with finding the right answer because the questions are constantly changing." In other words, to be successful in this ever changing and uncertain future, the process and approach used to solve a problem is vastly more important than a "Googleable" quick right answer to it.

Hence, the article continues, the necessity of incorporating several types of iterative learning modes and ideas like coding, making, inventing, and entrepreneurism. For more on these ideas, see the related articles below.

Saber Spotlight

As we wrap up the school year, SGCS teachers and student have been learning about programming and robotics with Ozobots (Kinder, 1st, 3rd) and Sphero (5th); incorporating tools and design with geography (3rd); inventing, programming, and making (5th); designing and launching rockets (6th); and even firing trebuchets (8th).

Making in the Media

For the last several days, d.lab has been overrun by 5th graders gleefully controlling (via coding) small, ball shaped robots called Spheros, which introduces useful programming skills suitable for "a novice coder to a high-school computer student." The article below explains this in more detail and also highlights some of the themes mentioned above.

2015 Highlights

2016 Highlights