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Brooklyn Scholars STEAM Teacher Inspires Global Problem Solving

In today’s world, there is no shortage of problems to solve. That’s why a STEAM teacher at Brooklyn Scholars Charter School, Gillian Bartlett, teaches her students to ask questions and define problems – the first step in the Engineering Design Process (EDP), the Scientific Inquiry Process, and the Next Generation Science and Engineering practices (NGSS).

Prior to COVID-19, her fifth-grade scholars were working with the PLTW Module on Infection Detection, and her eighth graders were exploring cells, diseases, and infection prevention. “Both grades used the Scientific Inquiry Process to collect and analyze data and to draw conclusions while designing and performing experiments to test the effectiveness of different hand-washing methods,” said Ms. Bartlett. “Coincidentally, our scholars were preparing for COVID-19 without even being aware that something like this was actually going to happen.”

Brooklyn Scholars teacher Ms. Bartlett

Now, during remote learning, Ms. Bartlett uses Google Meet, Pear Deck, and Padlet to teach her fifth- through eighth-grade scholars. They’ve been learning about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The United Nations, often referred to as the UN, is an international organization of representatives from 193 countries across the globe. Together, these representatives work together to find solutions to the world’s problems. One of their main initiatives is the SDGs, which is devised of 17 economic, bio-spherical, and social objectives to better the world by 2030.

“Since we were currently focusing and implementing the Engineering Design Process and the Next Generation Science and Engineering Practices into learning and instruction, I took the opportunity to make real-world connections by highlighting and bringing awareness to problems scholars face in their communities and around the world on a global scale,” said Ms. Bartlett.

student artwork

Her scholars are currently working on solving all 17 of the UN goals, with the most common goals being No Poverty, No Hunger, Good Health and Well-being, Quality Education, Clean Water and Sanitation, Reduced Inequalities, Life Below Water, and Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions. The scholars identified current problems they face at home and utilized the SDGs to research their topics. They created infographics, posters, storyboards, presentations, and animations to share their findings.

“It is extremely important for me to find opportunities to empower my scholars and show them that their actions, big or small, can have a huge impact and they can make a difference in the world right now,” said Ms. Bartlett.

Ms. Bartlett’s favorite part of remote learning has been the opportunity to make a difference in the world right now and giving her students a platform to have a voice and make a difference. “Teaching remotely has inspired me to become a better teacher, a better person, and an overall better citizen,” said Ms. Bartlett. “My students continue show up despite their challenges and this makes me extremely happy and motivated to do better.”

She loves STEAM because it allows scholars to shine in many areas. She believes it allows scholars to learn collectively, communicate effectively, collaborate with peers, think critically, and use creativity without feeling intimidated to contribute. “It encourages them to be unique and proud of their individuality,” said Ms. Bartlett. “They get to be the pilot of their learning and this empowers them.”

Ms. Bartlett also appreciates that STEAM embraces failure. She believes it teaches scholars that failure is part of the process and empowers students to find solutions to real-world problems.  

student artwork

“The Brooklyn Scholars Charter School STEAM program is creating a platform for great change on a global scale,” she reflected. “I know our scholars are going to find ways to contribute to their communities, their country, and the world in so many ways. I am so proud of our scholars and the work they continue to do.”

Keep up the amazing work Ms. Bartlett!