Lake Washington Girls Middle School

Over their three years at LWGMS, L-Dub girls cycle through a core curriculum integrating the arts with science, technology, engineering, and math. Embedded in all disciplines is an emphasis on Design Education as a way of fostering fluency in creative thinking skills to solve 21st century problems. Problem-solving, risk-taking, and mistake-making are necessary skills to practice, especially at the middle school level and especially for girls. Students experienced and familiar with Design Thinking (empathize, identify, ideate, prototype, and test) demonstrate resiliency and approach problems collaboratively and creatively--the heart of STEAM education. Some of the benefits of learning through Design Thinking: Problem-solving and critical thinking Openness to others' ideas and to changing course Approaching failure as a source of information instead of an endpoint Flexibility and action-oriented "what if" or "how might we..." questions Practice in sharing work and ideas Playfulness as part of the process Cultivation of Executive Skills such as planning, prioritizing, sequencing, monitoring progress Brainstorming skills with non-judgment Ability to question assumptions Practice in discussing differing opinions with respect Experience with a wide variety of tools and materials Confidence to uncover needs and test hypotheses Drawing, writing, three-dimensional building, modeling Empathy, curiosity, perseverance We are excited that our new STEAM Studio will open in September 2013! The STEAM Studio will make tools for designing, prototyping, and building available to all of our students, enabling them to delve more deeply into the creative process. Our STEAM STUDIO includes the following: A designated STEAM teacher, with classes devoted to STEAM projects and open-lab hours A six station iMac Design Lab and many iPads Filming equipment for digital storytelling (digital video cameras, sound equipment, mics, green screen, editing software) Idea wall for brainstorming and materials for prototyping 3D printer (produces 3D models - great for industrial design problems/engineering) Laser cutter Robotics platforms Vinyl cutter Power tools and shop tools Related software (AutoCAD; Autodesk Sketchbook, 123D, Inventor, Maya; Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator; iMovie; Arduino platform, etc.) What our girls will do with the tools: Digital Storytelling: documentaries, PSAs, animation/motion graphics Design/Build: projects may include a chicken coop, robots, musical instruments, kites, sculptures Mobile App development and Game-Based Project Development Graphic Design Digital Art Why STEAM is better than STEM There has been a focus on STEM education in the United States for decades, along with a worthy push to get more girls interested in STEM fields alongside their male counterparts. However, women continue to be underrepresented in STEM fields. In fact, according to research conducted by the EdLab Group, there has actually been a decrease in interest in STEM fields among girls and women. The STEMconnector report identifies potential interest in STEM fields at the high school level. Among the highlights: There has been a decrease among girls' interest in STEM careers over the past decade. The gender gap in STEM interest had remained steady over the past 20 years but it is now increasing at a significant rate. Overall, student interest in STEM decreases as they advance through the school system. I believe that there has been a historical cultural error that has encouraged us to think that there is some inherent binary division between the kind of people interested in (or good at) math and science and those interested in the arts and humanities. It is this error that causes girls to think that STEM classes and STEM fields aren't for them. What is needed is for us to reunite art and science and recognize that even in the most “sciency” science lab and the most mathematical accounting desk, there is great need for creativity, problem-solving, and empathy. Those are the skills inherent in design thinking. Once we embrace the A and all that goes along with art and design, girls will see the value in the other four letters and we will have a more diverse – and better – workforce in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math. "Art and science – once inextricably linked, both dedicated to finding truth and beauty – are better together than apart." – John Maeda, President of RISD I believe that all students should learn to take appropriate risks and make mistakes. A pedagogy grounded in design thinking not only allows for mistakes, it encourages them. Students are asked to identify a problem, ideate solutions, prototype a solution – and this is the best part – see how and why that solution is not perfect, and try again. I can think of no better time for girls to become comfortable with the design thinking process than middle school. It will poise them to be open to taking every opportunity high school has to offer and to be comfortable with being imperfect or even completely wrong occasionally – and that is how we teach girls to be self-confident, independent, and creative thinkers and learners. Patti Hearn, Head of School
Posted on November 5, 2013. Modified on November 10, 2013