YES Prep Fifth Ward art teacher, Dana Caldera, majored in mechanical engineering and worked at Shell for four years before deciding to focus on her passion, visual art. She is the embodiment of STEAM education and believes instruction in the arts can develop a students’ ability to think creatively and critically in science and math. Caldera, along with fellow teachers and administrators at Fifth Ward, have developed STEAM Lab, a system that unites electives under the STEAM categories and provides tracks for students to explore areas of interest.
“We wanted to develop our elective programming on campus so students have more options in electives and so that, if they find one they like, they have a track where they can continue to study it,” said Caldera. Right now, the campus is developing three elective tracks: fine arts, technology, and engineering.
STEAM Lab also encompasses other programming. Last year, the campus launched Talent Time, a 35 minute course that meets once a week where students can choose from courses such as rap and slam poetry, drumline, chess, and theater club. “We can’t predict what the future will be like and what sorts of jobs our students will do. We want to arm them with interests and skills that will prepare them to go out and be successful,” said Caldera.
As part of STEAM Lab, the campus will celebrate the students’ work, inviting families and community members to see theater performances, view visual art pieces, and learn about students’ technology and engineering projects.
Caldera’s ultimate goal is for the campus to have a makerspace where students can pursue their passions as they build, design, tinker and create. “There is usually not much room for play in the traditional core curriculum,” she said. “Hopefully, the opportunities for playful exploration in our STEAM Lab will spark an interest in students, allowing them to develop a passion for projects that incorporate STEM skills and the creative arts.”