MSS Teachers Present at National Science Teachers Conference

If you are in Boston tomorrow, April 4, you can catch MSS teachers Melissa McCallihan (fourth grade) and Clara Buckley (Upper School art) at the National Science Teachers Association Conference in Boston.  They will be presenting Full STEAM Ahead!  The conference website says, “Find out how three teachers (4th, 5th, and Art) implement a multi-age STEM and art education program that inspires children to be creative scientific problem solvers.”

Using Mustard Seed as a case study, Mrs. McCallihan and Ms. Buckley will give other teachers from around the country tools to build STEAM (Science or Social Studies, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) programs in their school. Topics they will cover include

  • relevant project-based inquiry
  • hands-on learning
  • science notebooks
  • model-making
  • the engineering design process
  • performance assessments

What does STEAM look like in the classroom?

I stopped by STEAM yesterday to see the fourth and fifth grade in action. Right away, I found out STEAM is not just a time for science.  At Mustard Seed, the “S” in STEAM can also stand for social studies. Right now the STEAM cycle is not a science topic, but a social studies topic: Perspectives on War.

So bear with me. At the risk of seeming a bit disjointed, I’ll give you an inside look at the current STEAM cycle in social studies. You can imagine what this might look like with a science topic. The same kind of learning applies.  Project-based inquiry.  Hands-on learning. Notebooks. Model-making. Performance Assessment.

Working in groups, students had picked a topic of study from either the Revolutionary War or the Civil War.  And here is where you see an integrated curriculum.  The study is not just social studies learning.  It also spans reading, writing, and art, as well as skills like research, collaboration,  and presentation.

Perspectives on War Project Have-tos:

  • Reading: fourth and fifth grade students have to read a historical fiction book about their war.
  • Writing: individual research report, collaborative news article
  • Project: collaborative timeline;  3D construction project
  • Critique: one per person
  • Presentation: 3-5 minutes.  (Note: Often students must present using technology.)

Yesterday students worked on the 3D construction requirement. Walking around the fourth grade classroom and the art room, this is what I saw.


Building a house that was a part of the underground railroad.


Working on a battleground for Ulysses S. Grant.

slave trade scene

A slave trade market under construction.

valley forge

A house for George Washington at Valley Forge.


Creating the scene of the signing of the Declaration of Independence while another student searches for art materials to make a George Washington diorama.

What else?

Throughout the classrooms students were engaged in meaningful work. Eager to talk about what they were doing. Concerned that they have enough time to complete their projects and execute their ideas.

You probably can’t attend the science teachers conference in Boston tomorrow.  But imagine a similar kind of process for learning about ecosystems. Plant and animal cycles.  Rocketry and space.  And you’ll have an idea of what Mrs. McCallihan and Ms. Buckley will teach science teachers from around the nation.

Abby Liu

ABBY LIU, Associate Director of Communications

Ms. Liu is a writer for the development office and manages the school’s digital and print media. She’s the parent of a current MSS student and a recent alum.