School for Children Welcomes The GIANT Room to Support STEAM Integration

The GIANT Room Founders Jessica Mezei and Azadeh JamalianAs part of the School for Children’s five-year strategic plan to strengthen science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics (STEAM) programming, Bank Street has partnered with educational innovator The GIANT Room to launch the 2019-20 Scholar-In-Residence Program, a new initiative to enhance and integrate STEAM throughout the School for Children curriculum and across all grades.

Led by Dr. Azadeh “Azi” Jamalian and Dr. Jessica Mezei, founders of The GIANT Room, the project aims to meet several objectives, including designing a STEAM-integrated curriculum focused on technology, engineering, and fabrication, creating a blueprint of an Innovation Studio space, and developing a strategy for school-wide STEAM integration. At the core of this partnership is a shared approach to teaching and learning that is child-centered, hands-on, and grounded in interdisciplinary and experience-based learning.

“The GIANT Room wants to help kids build the world they want to live in and the way we do that is by integrating technology with the humanities and focusing on developing interpersonal skills, like teamwork and communication, and fostering a joy of learning,” said Jamalian. “We help kids come up with a ‘giant mindset’ by designing their own process of building. That means no step-by-step instruction of how to build a perfect robot, but instead encouraging them to mess around with technology, take things apart, and put them together to build prototypes of possible solutions. We want kids to start thinking of technology as tools in service of their ideas, and be comfortable with these tools the way they are with paper and markers.”

Strongly aligned to Bank Street’s values, The GIANT Room partners with New York City schools and educational organizations to help children gain a voice to address real-world problems by fostering the connection between technology tools and issues like climate change, health, and homelessness.

To begin this work, Jamalian and Mezei immersed themselves into Bank Street by observing teachers and students, engaging in lessons and activities, and meeting with faculty and staff to review the curriculum and existing projects, such as robotics coding and the Integrated Arts Program. Throughout the year, Jamalian and Mezei will introduce more STEAM activities and learning units by collaborating with teachers on specific subjects. Examples of future projects include adding an electronics activity station in Lower School classrooms, integrating technology with the community and navigation unit in the Middle School, and incorporating a coding project in the Upper School.

“Our approach is very hands-on. We’ve been engaging with various parts of the community and getting a holistic view to understand how we can best serve the school with new ideas,” said Mezei. “It is important to build that foundation—to learn where the community is and what is needed—in order to help create a place, like the Innovation Studio, that people actually use and is authentic to them.”

The team is also working closely with faculty leadership and Charles Vergara, SFC ’95, Technology Coordinator, School for Children, on the design of the curriculum as well as the forthcoming Innovation Studio. Additionally, the after-school STEAM class, which began as a pilot last spring, has continued.

“At Bank Street, students use a range of technology tools across different subjects. Through this new initiative, we will be able to enhance these learning experiences by implementing a comprehensive STEAM program that strategically maps out how the content progresses from nursery through grade 8,” said Vergara. “The Innovation Studio will serve as a centralized hub for STEAM programming and offer students space and opportunities to engage in collaborative, problem-solving tasks.”

The Innovation Studio will be a creative space, allowing students to explore technology equipment, such as LEDs, motors, and coding blocks in combination with familiar materials, like paper and markers. Supplies from the studio will also be available on mobile carts for transporting resources to classrooms.

“Technology is connected to almost every aspect of our lives, including the way we communicate, interact, and learn. In today’s world, it is important for students to have access to new tools and technologies in order to develop the skills needed to succeed and thrive in our society,” said Jed Lippard, Dean of Children’s Programs. “One of the objectives within our strategic plan was to implement a technology and engineering curriculum that philosophically aligns with Bank Street, and we look forward to supporting this goal through our partnership with The GIANT Room.”

The Scholar-In-Residence Program will conclude in Summer 2020, when a STEAM curriculum is in place and a full-time STEAM Coordinator is on staff at the School for Children.

To learn more about The GIANT Room, visit thegiantroom.com