In STEAM class, Merrick’s 3-4 students are blending practical decision-making with entrepreneurship. Working in small teams, they’ve been challenged to build cubbies for the kindergarteners, a prospect that will unfold in its entirety by (probably) winter break. Currently, they are between prototype models. Each team built their first concept from cardboard, measuring the side panels and shelving, then added unique features before cutting and assembling their concepts. In the process, they were careful to label each component so as to apply them to a later process of duplication. This past week, they worked to conceptualize their cardboard versions as plywood, which required their attention to estimation, scale measurement, and problem-solving. First, they translated each piece in their first prototype to graph paper, each cube representing an inch in their original design. Then, Merrick let them know that single sheets of plywood measure 8’ (96”) by 4’ (48”). So, using the templates of their graphed pieces, the teams determined how many sheets of plywood they would need to produce eight of their respective designs (one per kindergartener). Merrick’s directions were clear, though complex, as expressions of introductory algebra: “How much wood does one cubby need? Therefore, how many sheets of plywood do you need to make eight cubbies?” Rather than contend with the relatively abstract qualities of equations, the students used narration and hands-on experimentation to determine their answers, consulting with each other and explaining their reasoning as they tried various arrangements atop another sheet of graph paper scaled to the size of the plywood. A few groups who were further along in their ideas added to the puzzle by researching differing costs of various wood options. Plus, the unique features conceptualized by each group helped to keep all of the students engaged in the creative potential of their own work. For example, Ella, Griffin, Jack, and Annika told me, “We came up with a paper slot for the (kindergarteners) to hold the drawings and things that they make, and a hook to hang up their clothes.” Next week, each group will present their findings and progress to the larger class, including the number of plywood sheets needed for their respective designs, the unique features within their designs, and the overall cost for eight cubbies. The class will then vote on the best option, considering both aesthetic value and practicality. Purchase of needed materials and cutting of wood should begin in early November, and the final productions will be installed in Merrick’s room for use by the Hummingbirds. Stay tuned.