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STEAM is rolling ahead with version 2

March 13, 2014|By Bryce Alderton

Students at Laguna Beach High and Thurston Middle schools will have a few more classes to choose from when they set their schedules for the 2014-15 year.

The Laguna Beach Unified School District board Tuesday unanimously approved four new classes, three at the high school and one at Thurston.

Trustees approved a second STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, mathematics) class at Thurston that builds on the first one. STEAM-2 is a yearlong elective course for eighth-graders that will tap into robotics, computer programming, architecture and game design with hands-on projects.

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Kelly Skon teaches the STEAM-1 elective class for seventh- and eighth-graders, which elicited rave reviews from students and parents in its inaugural year.

"One of the biggest things parents ask for [is] more hands-on, project-based learning," trustee Betsy Jenkins said.

Students in STEAM-1 designed and built remote-control robots with flexible steel wires, batteries and plastic tires, and competed against other groups to see which team could corral the most plastic cups.

STEAM-2 is designed to prepare students for college and careers in math and science.

The course allows students who may not be great test takers to display knowledge of a topic, Skon said during Tuesday's meeting.

Board President Jan Vickers complimented Skon on her initiative and dedication.

"You've taken this pilot year and done amazing things," Vickers said.

The course will cost $20,000 in start-up materials and equipment and will require $10,000 in subsequent years to replace supplies, according to a district staff report.

Laguna Beach High freshmen and sophomores will also have the option of a STEAM-type course, called STEM careers, which will build on the Thurston offerings, though students will not be required to complete the middle school curriculum in order to take the high school class.

Students will work in groups during four-week sessions on a particular topic, such as biotechnology, forensics, sports or veterinary medicine, the district staff report said.

They will also have two writing assignments for each unit and will hone problem-solving, innovation and communication skills, science department chairwoman and instructor Carrie Denton said.

Writing assignments align with the new Common Core State Standards, Denton said. The revamped state tests, which will officially roll out in the 2014-15 school year, emphasize critical thinking with arguments based on nonfiction, evidence-based texts.

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