STEAM Students Team Up with MIT for Unique Collaboration

Students develop creative interdisciplinary problem-solving skills and much more through this unique STEAM program at British International School Chicago, Lincoln Park.

The value of STEAM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math — is a hot topic among education circles, and for good reason. As our world changes, children benefit from an integrated approach to all topics of learning. Young students at the British International School Chicago, Lincoln Park (BISC-LP), are invited to take STEAM one step further through an exciting collaboration with MIT.

Photo credit: British International School Chicago, Lincoln Park

“STEAM is a mindset,” says Alex Hinde, the school’s Director of STEAM. “It extends beyond the acronym. Our collaboration with MIT incorporates every topic, and it helps children learn interdisciplinary problem-solving.”

Leading experts at MIT set three tasks a year to students at BISC-LP, encouraging children to find creative solutions to complex problems. Along the way, students are invited to ask questions of the experts and are offered real-time feedback and insights from MIT’s STEAM innovators.

This university-style model provides students with mind-opening experiences that help develop their problem-solving abilities. Participation is scaled according to age — BISC-LP educates students through the primary years — but all students benefit from these challenges.

Past MIT tasks at BISC-LP have included a truly “out of this world” experience of students working together to develop filtration devices to be used on Mars. Another recent challenge was ta study of sustainable architecture. Students participated by creating scale models of buildings, researching the viability of various materials, and studying how climate will affect the structure.

“For our sustainable architecture challenge, we pulled in learning about climate science, social implications, sustainability and how all of it affects the city of Chicago, different people, and different cultural backgrounds,” Hinde explains. “Connecting students to their hometown helps them understand the larger task.”

This term, students will get an intergalactic experience once again as they team up with MIT experts to study exoplanets as well as the possibility of life on other planets.

STEAM is a gateway to a global mindset

Alex Hinde believes that relating relevant everyday concepts to the larger MIT tasks provides students with an ability to see the bigger picture and find creative solutions to problems, which is one of the main goals of a STEAM curriculum.

“As an international school, we offer a truly international mindset of approaching the world, and an international mindset begins with understanding your own immediate community and location. When you understand your own community, you can then understand and empathize with other cultures and their approaches to difficult challenges. This is all a part of creative problem-solving,” Hinde explains.

This international approach is a big part of the MIT/British International Schools collaboration. As part of the Nord Anglia international education group, BISC-LP students collaborate with peers around the world, allowing them to witness how geographical location, culture and climate will affect the solutions their fellow students create.

Because all Nord Anglia students receive the same MIT STEAM challenge each term, students can track their international counterparts’ contributions for all MIT tasks past and present.

Preparing students for a dynamic future

BISC-LP educators receive additional professional training and Hinde received his MIT/STEAM training in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at MIT as part of a special partnership.

Hinde feels that this training has benefits far beyond the specific STEAM tasks each term and that it enhances the school’s educational philosophy.

“The training we receive allows us to provide our students with opportunities not just for topic work, but for how our STEAM project will relate directly to what students are doing in all of their classes, including things like English, Geography, and Humanities,” he says.

Ultimately, Hinde sees the STEAM/MIT challenge as a total approach to education that will help prepare students for their rapidly changing world.

“The students learn to be adaptable and creative and to have the skills to meet the future,” he says. “By learning to be adaptable, by realizing that finding success sometimes means trying, failing and finally finding a workable solution, they will learn to succeed at school, in life, and later, in their chosen profession.”

Content brought to you by the British International School Chicago, Lincoln Park. For more information, visit the school’s website.

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Jennifer Kales
Jennifer Kales
Content editor Jennifer Kales has been in the business of writing for more than 20 years creating advertising copy, blogs, books and everything in between. She loves helping Chicago Parent clients tell their stories in a way that resonates with audiences.


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