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A Year of STEAM in Review

June 9, 2021 | Ms. Jonker

Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math

STEAM is consistently a favorite in the fourth and fifth grade. In spite of the many challenges of this year, we noticed that students were consistently invested in STEAM especially, which is why we made the mid-year decision to turn our “study hall” periods into additional STEAM periods. 

The student growth in STEAM skills was huge this year.

Students learned to responsibly use technology and manage platforms like Google Classroom. For fourth graders, this was a significant learning curve! Every project required students to research their topics thoroughly and find creative online ways to present what they learned.

Lydia researches physics concepts in a hands-on way!

An important point of growth for fifth graders is showing leadership in group settings, particularly when they are working with fourth graders. Even this year, fifth graders embraced that challenge. In our “Water and our Urban Ecosystem” project, they met with their fourth grade partners over Google meet to plan their public service announcements. The fifth graders also did extra mini-lessons about how to lead their group well.

Here is the link to our PSA site!

In this unique year, students had the challenge of building their models and diagrams both at home and at school. This required students to be organized and strategically bring things to and from school so that for remote days they’d be able to work at home. The Rube Goldberg project required students to do all of their building at home, pushing them to independently navigate engineering challenges! Students also created models and diagrams in their recent study about different energy sources.


A continuing goal for our STEAM program is more opportunities for deep, personal reflection. As students learn, are they being challenged and changed? Are they connecting what they are learning with their beliefs, their experiences, and/or their faith? Are they asking good questions and listening to the perspectives of their classmates?

Students did a lot of personal reflection this year. In our Voices of the People project, students looked closely at inspiring activists and changemakers. Students invested in understanding these people and their lives, and as we continue through the year, students show continued interest in thinking about how to create good change in this world. 

In the fourth grade, students are ending the year with a DIY STEAM project. Students are creating their own rubrics, their own “big questions” (these “big questions” drive their research throughout the project), and their own plans. They get to choose their own topics, as well.

Here’s to an exceptional year of STEAM!

Kat Jonker

Teacher, Grades 4

Kat Jonker is energized by how passionately Mustard Seed School nurtures each student to blossom into the person God has made them to be. She’s honored to teach and learn beside the fourth and fifth grade students here.

Ms. Jonker’s always been surrounded and inspired by dedicated teachers--including her mother! When she began teaching private violin lessons as a high school student, Ms. Jonker began to think about teaching as a career. Soon she realized her passion for teaching and learning as an Elementary Education with an integrated science major at Calvin College. There she flourished as an assistant teacher at Calvin’s middle school chemistry camp. She also led elementary nature programs at Calvin’s ecosystem preserve.

Music remains one of Ms. Jonkers passions and you’ll sometimes get to hear her playing in worship. She’s an avid violin player and spent a disproportionately large amount of her college life in string quartet rehearsals. She listens to music constantly and likes to keep it eclectic, so if you have any music recommendations, send them her way.

Grand Rapids, Michigan, is Ms. Jonker’s home town. Through God-gifted communities of faith there, she found her roots in grace and a life of service.

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