Todd Elementary students are in luck. Not only does their school have its very own STEAM teacher this year, but she comes to Briarcliff Manor with background in International Baccalaureate (IB), an inquiry-based learning program.
The new teacher, Amira Lahlouh, hails from Canada, where she spent six years working as an elementary school teacher and regularly used STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) in her classroom.
“I always did different STEAM-related activities that I integrated into the subjects that I taught,” she said. “This fits well with the IB program because STEAM is all about inquiry-based learning.” She said.
Ms. Lahlouh has done various professional development workshops but also learned on her own.
“My degree is in mathematical sciences and I have always loved math and science but STEAM is a passion of mine,” she said.
Before Ms. Lahlouh arrived at the district, various teachers did STEAM activities. Now, however, with Ms. Lahlouh, they have been organized as one subject that encompasses many subjects within the curriculum.
“I am trying to integrate STEAM to the existing curriculum and working with the teachers to do activities that will enhance the work that they are already doing,” she said. “I have done that when I worked back in Canada, too – I helped other teachers integrate STEAM activities into their curriculum.”
“I can always find ways to integrate subjects like coding or makerspace into the program. It makes it more exciting because it adds another dimension of learning,” she said.
Recently, Ms. Lahlouh visited Ana Correia’s second grade class to work on coding and spelling.
“I taught the students how to code blue bots which is fairly simple and a great way to introduce coding for the younger grades,” she said. “We used the blue bots to spell different words – we started with simple words, so the students would code the blue bots to spell the word “cat” for example.”
Once the students learn how to code with the blue bots, they can use coding as one of the options when they have various stations in the classroom.
“If one of the stations is word work, students can choose to use coding as one of the options to practice spelling,” she said.
Ms. Lahlouh works in both the students’ classrooms and her own classroom to have the students engage in the various activities.
“Recently, for example, kindergarten students came to my room to do an activity where they were tasked with creating a structure that will prevent an ice cube from melting,” she said.
Ms. Lahlouh acknowledges that not all schools have a dedicated STEAM teacher and thinks it is fortunate to have such an opportunity for students.
“There has been a bigger push for it recently in the area because there has been a push in New York State, so more schools are starting to get STEAM teachers. I am fortunate to have been hired to do this work at Todd,” she said.
Click here to watch a video of the blue bots in action.