Posted on September 27, 2016
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How do we improve the teaching of math and science in our schools?
When the New York Academy of Sciences raised this question in 1976, Salvadori’s founder responded. He showed students how math and science are a part of the buildings, bridges, and communities that surround them. In 1987, Mario Salvadori founded the Salvadori Center with three main principles:
- Engage students through project-based exercises
- Use the built environment to illustrate the relevance of math and science
- Employ collaborative problem solving that involves all learners
Today, we hold true to our founding principles. Salvadori’s K-12 programs celebrate our collaborative, hands-on and project-based approach to learning through the built environment. We offer a variety of multi-day in-school and after-school programs that enable every child to succeed, as well as professional development workshops that provide teachers with a strong foundation in project-based learning. All Salvadori curricula link to national educational standards (Common Core, Next Generation, Blueprint for the Arts, etc.) and grade-specific learning objectives.
Salvadori’s approach to teaching math and science pulses between small group, project-based experiments and full-class sharing, analysis, and discussions. The hands-on approach to building projects provides an intimate learning experience. Working collaboratively teaches students that they don’t need to have all the answers; individual contributions shape an increasingly dynamic view. The small group scientific approach allows students to build experiments, form hypotheses, record observations, and make conclusions. Results are shared, discussed and analyzed with the entire class.
Each multi-day in-school residency or after-school program is designed to progress to a culminating activity through a series of distinct and focused sessions. Each session includes multiple collaborative experiments. The session starts with a re-cap activity that explores the previous week’s session on a higher level. This reminds students where they left off and enables those who missed the previous session to catch up. The primary activity reinforces new concepts with hands-on, project-based experiments. The session ends in a brief wrap-up, which is often a “cliff hanger” that foreshadows the topic for the next session. The cliff hanger technique helps to maintain interest and excitement between sessions, aids memory, and motivates students to engage in future sessions. Each individual session is encapsulated ~ with a beginning, middle, and end ~ yet builds to a culminating project during which students can use the knowledge gained throughout the residency to design, build, test, and present a final project.
Our approach employs a variety of techniques designed to embrace all learning styles and heighten student engagement. Our process develops collaborative and critical thinking skills, allows students to personalize their learning, and shows students the relevance of math and science to their lives. Students not only learn about STEM careers in math and science, they see it and feel it in the classes they enter, the bridges they cross, and the communities they live in.