After completing a year of inquiry into 21st Century Skills, Derryfield will be offering a new opportunity for sixth graders to explore the field of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). Derryfield’s approach to STEM is highly interdisciplinary and focused on solving for the unknown, or “X”, resulting in STEM X. The new middle school offering is an introductory course that gives students early exposure to the powerful blending of these traditional topics with an innovative approach.
Starting this year, sixth graders will take Latin for two trimesters and STEM X for one trimester to create a first-year experience that has a wonderful blending of the classics and the state-of-the-art. Taught by Dr. Marco Masoni, Derryfield’s Dean of Innovation and STEM X Department Chair, the STEM X class will teach students how to solve for X by discovering interesting problems, applying STEM skills to experiment with novel solutions, documenting their work, and sharing their findings.
The philosophy behind this class is to expose students to technology and the design thinking process in a pleasant blend of individual work and team-based projects in which the kids learn to collaborate. Dr. Masoni elaborates, “the students adapt an innovator’s mindset where they can define and solve a problem in a formulative way. It is a great age for understanding the value of this: the importance of building on the theory of constructing knowledge and that working together can create a base of knowledge.”
Dr. Masoni sees this class as a means of preparing first-year Derryfield students for what is to follow in their continued experience at the school. In fact, what older students in the STEM classes are doing is often introduced as a way to encourage the sixth graders to tackle and analyze problems. In working with his students, Dr. Masoni does not consider himself the help desk, handing out easy answers; rather the conduit, encouraging students to learn from each other and embrace the spirit of cooperation.
Students are already voicing their opinions of the new class:
“I think there has been a good variety of building, designing, studying, and more!”
“I think the timer is stressing me out; I also think it makes some projects more interesting.”
“I most enjoy working with groups on challenges. I am looking forward to app building.”
STEM X students look at big world problems and attempt to solve them on a personal level. Dr. Masoni feels his class is “creating a foundation for future problem solvers, so they become the rule rather than the exception.” Using a mixture of hands-on challenges, this class seems to be a success. About half of the middle school students who decided to join the middle school robotics team were enrolled in this first semester of STEM X - they got a taste and wanted more.