LEAF to STEM - Harmony Public Schools


In 2018, the U.S. Department of Education awarded Harmony Public Schools an $8 million Education Innovation and Research Grant to pioneer a new, early-education STEM program for elementary students.

Innovative Education for Early Learners With LEAF to STEM

Dubbed, “LEAF to STEM” (Launching Elementary Academic Foundations to Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics), the program builds upon Harmony’s proven “Students On Stage” (SOS) project-based learning STEM model for Grade 6-12 students, by introducing similar curricula to students in Grades K-5, and by creating a system of support and professional development for elementary school teachers.

Harmony was the only organization in Texas to receive the EIR Grant.

How Harmony Helps Students Blossom with LEAF to STEM

LEAF to STEM doesn’t just teach students the principles of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. It helps learning come alive with fun, hands-on projects integrated into a variety of subject areas. Here’s how:

  • Turns creative ideas into real classroom projects with elementary school maker spaces where students develop, design, and build engineering skills.
  • Make coding fun with classroom technology projects that include app-building and robot programming.
  • Integrates STEM principles across a variety of subjects with cross-curricular lessons, such as sing language-building skills during science class or engineering solutions for real-world problems learned in social studies.
  • Teaches students how to communicate and collaborate on projects which require teamwork, information-gathering, planning, and sharing of ideas.

Sample Classroom Activities

Project Based Learning: Mars Rover

In this challenge, students must work with elements of robotics kit to design a steering system for a ‘Mars rover.” Each wheel must have independent steering control and the rover must be able to drive in a straight line when completed.

STEM Skills Taught:

  • Engineering principles, design principles, critical thinking, problem-solving, testing and evaluation, collaboration, project-based learning.

Digital Design Challenge: Coding & Gamified Learning

In this challenge, students must learn text-based coding skills to help a virtual hero to overcome a variety of obstacles and save the world in a game-based environment designed for students Grades 3-5. Without any prior experience, students learn coding as they design their own challenges and games.

STEM Skills Taught:

  • Computer science, coding, computational and algorithmic thinking, critical thinking, problem-solving, testing and evaluation, project-based learning.

Engineering Design Challenge: Build a Foundation

In this challenge, students must work to construct towers that are strong enough to hold a textbook for at least 10 seconds, using everyday classroom materials.

STEM Skills Taught:

  • Engineering principles, design principles, critical thinking, problem-solving, testing and evaluation, prototyping, collaboration, project-based learning.

3D Modeling and 3D Printing: Personalized Key Ring Name Tag

In this activity, students are asked to utilize previously acquired Computer-Aided Design (CAD) skills, and model a personalized key-ring-name-tag design on the TinkerCAD platform. Upon teacher approval, student designs are turned into real-life artifacts in the classroom via the amazing technology offered by 3D printer machines. 

STEM Skills Taught:

  • Engineering-design thinking, spatial thinking, prototyping, creativity, project-based learning

If we want a nation where our future leaders, neighbors, and workers have the ability to understand and solve some of the complex challenges of today and tomorrow, and to meet the demands of the dynamic and evolving workforce, building students' skills, content knowledge, and fluency in STEM fields is essential.”

U.S. Department of Education

Why STEM Matters to Early Learners

STEM learning helps young learners better understand and connect to the world around them, while building foundations for later academic achievement and career success by developing problem-solving and critical thinking skills. 

“In an ever-changing, increasingly complex world,” the U.S. Department of Education writes, “it's more important than ever that our nation's youth are prepared to bring knowledge and skills to solve problems, make sense of information, and know how to gather and evaluate evidence to make decisions. These are the kinds of skills that students develop in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.”

Grant Timeline

2018 - Grant awarded.

2019 - Classroom launch.

2020-2022 - Ongoing implementation.

2023 - Findings & Analysis.

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