Students Take Learning Outdoors to Enhance a Local Park with STEAM Stops

All across the grounds of JB Red Owens Sports Complex in Easley, SC are seemingly common areas that are being transformed into immersive, outdoor, learning environments by a group of 3rd-5th grade students from Pickens County School’s Gifted and Talented Program. 

They are called “STEAM Stops” and are set to open on May 18th, 2022 at 1 PM EDT followed by a ceremony celebrating students’ hard work. 

According to former educator and education specialist helping with the project, Anna Hanrahan (Trafera), “STEAM Stops encourage visitors to think about spaces outside of the classroom where children can learn about STEAM, make connections within their community, ask thoughtful questions, and raise awareness of how STEAM concepts are all around us, sometimes in unusual and unexpected places.” 

So what are STEAM Stops? At first glance, it looks like any other permanent signage you might find at a park, but instead of “stay off the grass” or “please pick up after your dog” these signs contain immersive lessons that allow a walker to engage with the environment around them to explore a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) concept. 

What makes these stops particularly special is that they were created by students for students. 

“It’s all about building ‘authentic audiences’ for young learners,” Hanrahan adds. “Giving students an opportunity to create something that can be viewed and enjoyed by more than just a teacher grading assignments can really help boost engagement and effort, all while giving students real pride in the product.” 

The project started over a year ago when Pickens County Schools began professional development for the teachers working with students in the Gifted and Talented Program. The team at Trafera working on these teacher trainings wanted to deliver a project-based learning (PBL) experience for Pickens County educators and students, and proposed the idea of STEAM Stops.

With the guidance of the Trafera professional development team, Pickens County teachers went through the process of developing STEAM Stops with their classes. Students engaging in the project were able to head outdoors to identify locations that reflected STEAM concepts within their community in a way that encourages exploration, independent discovery, inquiry thinking, and problem-solving. They made connections between concepts taught in school and the world around them, and developed their own bite-sized lessons to help other kids connect the dots between classroom concepts and their environment. 

One can enjoy a stimulating and enriching walk through the Pickens County STEAM Stops at JB Red Owens Sports Complex starting on May 18th, 2022, and are invited to join in celebrating the success of these bright students at an opening ceremony at 1:00 PM EDT that same day. 

For more information about the Pickens County STEAM Stops or Trafera professional development, contact Anna Hanrahan at anna.hanrahan@trafera.com.