The 5E Approach

We have chosen to structure our STEAM Academy lessons in what is known as a “5E” lesson plan. The 5 E’s are: Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate. Arranging lessons in this way encourages students to investigate a topic before they have all the information. This draws on a child’s natural curiosity, and it normalizes the idea that it’s OK to make mistakes. This method also leads to greater retention and understanding of the information. A more detailed explanation of how we apply 5E in our lessons is provided below.

Each of our 5 STEAM Academy units is broken down into 6 lessons. In each lesson, we apply the 5E strategy as follows:

  1. Engage: This is usually a question, a picture, a funny story, or a very quick activity to engage the attention of the students and get them interested in the day’s topic.
  2. Explore: The activities in this portion of class are intended to help students discover concepts on their own, without someone feeding them the information. We provide guidance and answer questions, but the goal is discovery. One benefit is that being wrong in this process is not only normal but encouraged, and involves no risk. Another positive result is that concepts students discover for themselves will be retained better than concepts they only hear about.
  3. Explain: We don’t leave students wondering for all of class. Once they have a chance to explore a bit, we go over the “facts” for the day – definitions, misconceptions, and usually some fun or interesting extra information about it.
  4. Elaborate: Sometimes this is called “Extend” or something else similar, but the idea is always the same. Once students have the additional information contained in the “Explain” period of class, we give them an enrichment activity. This is often where we incorporate the “A” in STEAM – the arts. Whether painting, sculpture, building models, or creating multimedia 3D projects, we love to have students create something to take home with them.
  5. Evaluate: Many of us hear this word and think it only means tests and quizzes. Although those types of assessments have their place, we do not use them in our STEAM Academy curriculum. We have an exit ticket designed to align with the standards and objectives for the day, to see whether the students understood the concepts. These are not graded, though if a parent chose to use them that way they could. They are simply a way to get feedback from students about the topic

Standards-Aligned Curriculum

Our STEAM Academy instructors, Heidi DuPuis and Casey Vreeken, align each lesson with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), which have been adopted not only by our state of Washington but by the majority of states in the U.S. These are the same standards the public schools in Washington use – in short, they identify concepts to be taught at each grade level. In elementary school, this means giving students enough information to prepare them for a more in-depth look at these topics when they reach middle school.

For more information, visit the NGSS website, here.