Creating a STEAM Lab

Area(s) of Focus: technology, math, kindergarten, curriculum
Division(s): Primary, Junior
Level(s): Kindergarten, Grade 1, Grade 2, Grade 3, Grade 4, Grade 5

Using inspiration from the Peel District School Board document, Empowering Modern Learners, to create a portable STEAM Lab at Meadowvale Village Public School.

Our project was to implement the PDSB Empowering Modern Learners (EML) document by the creation of a portable STEAM Lab. We researched, adapted and developed provocations and activities designed to inspire integrative learning in science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics (STEAM).  We created an Empowering Modern Learners Committee to discuss, develop and implement curriculum that supports the EML document.

Team Members

  • Liza Taylor

    Peel District School Board

  • Bibiana Rolston

    Peel District School Board

Professional Learning Goals

  • Developed a deeper understanding of Empowering Modern Learners document (PDSB, 2017); delved into the four core beliefs of the EML document, identified how the six Innovative Elements (i.e., Learning Culture, Informative Assessment, Access to Technology, 21st Century Competencies, Learning Environments, and Models of Learning) enhance learning
  • Researched and developed STEAM activities and provocations that inspired students from kindergarten to Grade 5 to hypothesize solutions to scientific problems, use technology to assist with inquiry, use principles of engineering to build and construct, learn the principles of design and create artistic pieces, and solve mathematical problems
  • Developed a portable STEAM Lab that makes it easy for teachers to conduct inquiries in their classrooms, in the library, or any other available space (i.e., storage has to be easily moved to various areas of the school)
  • Selected activities and provocations that were integrated into the curriculum at various grade levels

Activities and Resources

At a staff meeting, we were given the opportunity to share our understanding of STEAM and to have staff try a variety of exploration tasks that we had a Grade 3 class try prior to the staff meeting.

The Exploration Tasks were as follows:

  1. Exploration Task #1: Robots
  2. Exploration Task #2: Green Screen
  3. Exploration Task #3: Osmo
  4. Exploration Task #4: Coding


Building With Makedo Cardboard Construction – Social Studies

A Grade 3 class investigated different artefacts used by Canada’s First Nations people. Pairs of students were given a project-based inquiry task card. The task card asked them to research and design one of the following:

  • Transportation – Snowshoes
  • Transportation – Canoe
  • Homes – Teepee
  • Homes – Wigwam
  • Tanning

Students were given a design planning sheet, where they did the following:

  1. Define the problem
  2. Brainstorm possible solutions (choose one of the solutions)
  3. Create a prototype using cardboard
  4. Test their prototype

They created their prototype using the following materials:

  • Cardboard
  • Large sheets of plastic
  • Makedo Cardboard Construction Kits
  • Duct tape
  • Masking tape
  • Scotch tape
  • Scissors
  • Metre sticks
  • String

To see samples of actual provocations used, please see the attached files.

Unexpected Challenges

  • Budgetary constraints – equipping a STEAM Lab is costly (investment in technology, moveable storage units, materials such as Makedos, Lego, Microbits, Makey Makey)
  • Weak WiFi connection (requires updating and improvements)
  • Went through consumables very quickly (i.e., collected large quantities of cardboard and our stock was depleted after one project)
  • Getting staff buy-in requires more professional development, pre-made provocations which link directly to the curriculum, more resources, and hands-on technological support

Enhancing Student Learning and Development

  • Fostered curiosity and questioning disposition
  • Established empathy amongst learners
  • Triangulation of data (providing varied ways for learners to demonstrate their learning)
  • Used technology to connect learners to the people, information and tools they needed for project-based learning
  • Develop 21st century skills and competencies (i.e., Learning Culture, Informative Assessment, Access to Technology, 21st Century Competencies, Learning Environments, and Models of Learning)
  • Build on their knowledge base
  • Develop their design thinking and explore big ideas
  • Made learning meaningful and the curriculum more authentic



  • Staff meeting presentation (re: What is STEAM?)
  • Staff hands-on exploration of technology at staff meeting
  • Lunch-and-Learns
  • Collaboration with other grade teams
  • Empowering Modern Learners Committee
  • Working with administration to create a common vision
  • Networking with other teacher-librarians and teachers who have Makerspaces or STEM Labs

Project Evaluation

Our take-aways (what we learned):

  • Learned a great deal about inquiry-based learning and project-based learning, Makerspaces, STEM and STEAM
  • How to engage students and empower their learning
  • Learned that it is important to carefully think out the logistics of a portable STEAM Lab
  • Came to the realization that we need to develop a three-year plan in order to make the STEAM Lab an actuality
  • Importance of creating a committee to help make school-wide decisions and ensure equitable use of resources
  • Deeper understanding of the Empowering Modern Learners document (PDSB, 2017)

Resources Used

The Big Book of Makerspace Projects: Inspiring Makers to Experiment, Create, and Learn by Colleen Graves and Aaron Graves. McGraw-Hill Education, 2016

Empower: What Happens When Students Own Their Learning by John Spencer and A.J. Juiliani. IMpress, 2017.

Empowering Modern Learners: Inspire, Innovate, Ignite. (2017). Peel District School Board.

From STEM to STEAM: Brain-Compatible Strategies and Lessons That Integrate the Arts by David A. Sousa and Tom Pilecki.  Corwin Press, 2018.

Hacking Project Based Learning: 10 Easy Steps to PBL and Inquiry in the Classroom by Ross Cooper and Erin Murphy. Times 10 Publication, 2016.

The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity by George Couros. Dave Burgess Consulting, Incorporated, 2016.

IQ: A Practical Guide to Inquiry-Based Learning by Jill Coyler and Jennifer Watt. Oxford University Press, 2014.

Launch: Using Design Thinking to Boost Creativity and Bring Out the Maker in Every Student by John Spencer and A.J. Juliani.  Dave Burgess Consulting, Incorporated, 2016.

Learner Centered Innovation: Spark Curiosity, Ignite Passion and Unleash Genius by Dr. Katie Martin. Learner-Centered Innovation, 2017.

STEM-Infusing the Elementary Classroom by Miranda Talley Reagan. Corwin, 2016.

STEAM KIDS: 50+ Science/Technology/Engineering/Art/Math Hands-On Projects for Kids by Anne Carey and STEAM Kids Author Team. Left Brain Craft Brain, 2016.

STEAM Makers: Fostering Creativity and Innovation in the Elementary Classroom by Dr. Jacie Maslyk. Corwin Press, 2016.

STEM Play: Integrating Inquiry Into Learning Centers by Deirdre Englehart, Debby Mitchell, Junie Albers-Biddle, Marnie Forestieri and Kelly Jennings-Towle. Gryphon House, Incorporated, 2016.

Teaching STEM in the Early Years: Activities for Integrating Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics by Sally Moomaw. Redleaf Press, 2013.

THINQ 1-3: Inquiry-Based Learning in the Primary Classroom by Jill Colyer, Teresa Cariglia-Bull, Shannon Simpson, Elizabeth David and Marie Swift. Wave Learning Solutions, 2018.

THINQ 4-6: Inquiry-Based Learning in the Junior Classroom by Jill Colyer and Jennifer Gail Watt. Wave Learning Solutions, 2016.

Together for Learning: School Libraries and the Emergence of the Learning Commons: A Vision for the 21st Century. Ontario Library Association, 2010.

Towards Defining 21st Century Competencies for Ontario (2016). Ministry of Education, Ontario.