Ready, Set, Kick-Off, Education ClosetThis week, we’re excited to kick-off the launch of my latest book, STEAM Point: A Guide to Integrating Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics through Common Core.  This book has been months in the making and we’re thrilled to finally be able to release it THIS THURSDAY, December 20th!  So what’s the big deal about this book launch?

Well, I have heard from teachers, artists and administrators around the country about how difficult it is to not only align and integrate across content areas using the new Common Core Standards, but it’s incredibly hard to figure out how to assess these subjects authentically.  So I set out to create a guide that addresses these issues in a concise, easy-to-use format that you could turn to again and again to make integrating across areas something that many would want to try.

This week, we’ll be sharing reviews, excerpts and giveaways to help spread the good news about this book.  Before I share today’s excerpt, I wanted to fill you in on a few details about the book itself:

1. It’s formatted in a logical, beautiful way.

I took a lot of time figuring out how to best layout this book to be useful and yet something you’ll love to look at.  It comes in 3 parts: Curriculum Mapping, Lesson Seeds, and Assessments.  The whole book is printed in vibrant color using a full bleed on the page.  And the back contains 4 Appendices that share the Common Core Standards, STEM Standards of Practice, Fine Arts Standards, Arts Elements, and Strategy Guides.

2. Alignment.

All of the Curriculum Maps are aligned to the Common Core Standards for English and Math, the Lesson Seeds provide clear natural links across subject areas and the Assessment Strategies tie in Common Core Standards, Rubrics, Formative and Performance Assessments that are authentic to both areas.

3. Reproduce-ability.

This book not only provides you with ready-made maps, lesson seeds and assessments, it also provides you with templates to help you create your own, and assessment materials for both teachers and students that you can copy as you need.

The big release of this book will be on Thursday, December 20th and will be available through Amazon.com, as well as Barnes and Noble stores.

In the meantime, today’s sneak peek is an excerpt from the book’s introduction to help you see what this resource is all about.  Stop back each day this week for another behind-the-scenes piece!

Counterpoint. A term for music that is interdependent, yet can be separated into independent, purposeful parts. It is a musical style that requires precision, reasoning, creativity and a lot of risk. The master of this style was Bach and his music seems to suggest that he took great pride and pleasure in writing music that was both a puzzle to be solved and an intricate art to be appreciated. Counterpoint is truly a style of music that incorporates math, poetry, ingenuity and logic all in one beautiful package.

As a music student in college, I dreaded going to my first Music Theory IV class. This class was dedicated solely to analyzing counterpoint music. I thought this would be dull and difficult and it wasn’t how I wanted to spend my final semester of my junior year. Yet, when we began to look at the pieces, listen to them as a whole and then tear them apart, the magic of counterpoint was so incredible that I found myself drawn to my homework just so that I could try and figure out how a composer could make all of the independent pieces work so seamlessly together to create an entirely new sound. This had to be the original “network”.

We, of course, are a networked nation. We are a network of skills and ideas, struggles and triumphs, redundancy and innovation. We are a beautiful, complicated, terrifying, inspiring snowflake of everything that ever was and the promise of what is to come crystalized into one moment in the history of time. Our time is fleeting and the bonds that connect us are thin but strong. WE are a network.

Yet, as a whole, education does not address this fact. Education, in the broad, generalized term views subjects and content as silos of information and students as the recipients of knowledge. What is taught in one classroom lives on its own and teachers are the operators of a well-oiled machine. Administrators become mere quality control personnel, in charge of making sure that each student passes inspection by meeting standards set for an arbitrary high-stakes testing event. Sound like something out of the early 20th century? Of course it is – because this is how school was originally formatted.

It worked well then, as it prepared students for the economy to which they would soon enter. The problem is that this has not been the reality of our workforce needs for a long time, yet our schools have not changed. We need to acknowledge and accept that the economy has shifted, the world has become smaller and more open, and the expectations for competing and succeeding in this global network are radically different than in previous generations. We have heard this all before, and yet our schools still do not reflect this change with any continuity or integrity.

If we both acknowledge and accept our new global reality, then it is time to take the steps necessary to shift our educational systems, culture, and curriculum to address these needs. Our schools should be constantly evolving, molded by the needs of the society to which our students and our parents are citizens. They must mirror the global network to which we all belong and provide a safe and secure environment for our children to take risks, be creative, practice collaboration and build skills that are needed in a 21st century workforce. Schools must become integrated network hubs where information is curated, shared, explored, and molded into new ways of seeing and being so that our children each have equitable opportunities to grow and be challenged to succeed.

This book is broken into three main sections: Curriculum Mapping, Lesson Seeds, and Assessments. These three sections are meant to lead teachers and administrators through the process of building an integrated curriculum that supports networked study and understanding with integrity. It is meant to be a resource for those who struggling with the “how” of creating integrated curriculum and for those who need some fresh ideas on their approach to teaching and learning. When working through integrated lessons, many teachers need a practical guide as both an example and as a place to jumpstart their own creative ideas. This allows teachers to get back to the craft of teaching and providing those learning opportunities that our students so desperately crave.

This book does not delve deeply into the “why” of integration, as this has been discussed at great length over many years. However, to answer the first topic of concern outlined previously, teachers do not need to have all of the answers. That is not their job. Instead, their job should be asking interesting questions and curating the resources for students to use to find their own answers.

So if you or your colleagues are nervous about implementing integrated lessons for fear that you do not have the skills needed in another area, you can place that burden down. Additionally, the approach of this book is through the process of STEAM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics. This is an approach to teaching which makes natural connections across multiple contents in order for students to engage in the necessary thinking and creative practices reflective of a 21st century society.

The content here is standards-based and uses the lens of both STEM and Arts Integration to enhance and deepen meaning of content for students, to provide an access point for learners of varying abilities, and as a way to engage both teachers and learners. By making purposeful connections in and through STEM and the Arts, all skills, processes, and subjects are strengthened and students gain a richer learning experience. It’s the STEAM Point: each subject can stand alone, but when they are added together in a precise way, they make music together.