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Full STEAM Ahead: Meet teacher James Buchanan

Maize South Intermediate School STEAM teacher James Buchanan works with his students.James Buchanan at Maize South Intermediate School hopes having a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) class in the school will help expose students to electives that are available in middle school and high school.

In the past, because the students were not exposed to those classes in intermediate school, they often did not choose those electives in middle school.

“My goal is to introduce them to a lot of these engineering, programming, and other technical skills,” Buchanan said. “That way, when they go to middle school, they have an awareness of it, so they can start picking something that they’re interested in or realizing things that they aren’t interested in. So they can start that pathway a little bit early.”

This is Buchanan’s sixth year of teaching and first school year as a STEAM teacher. He was a fourth grade teacher at Maize Elementary School and a math teacher at Maize South Intermediate School. He said he was excited when the STEAM job opened up.

“It’s a lot different from being a classroom teacher,” Buchanan said. “Because there was no example to follow from, it's been building the program from the ground up.”

In September, fifth and sixth grade students worked on catapults and trebuchets. After that, students will learn about coding and use Sphero robots. Some students are working on projects with the 3D printer. Later, they’ll fly drones.

Maize South Intermediate School STEAM teacher James Buchanan works with his students.The most important lessons STEAM will teach students are critical thinking skills and collaboration skills, Buchanan said.

“It’s an awesome place for the students to work on something that is engaging, whether it’s with coding or with these catapults, where they are given a problem and they  have to think about how to solve that problem. Maybe the answer is not right there, given to them,” Buchanan said. “So that's why I'm really excited about the robots and coding, because I think that will be an engaging way for them to solve problems.”

Buchanan said he applied for the STEAM job because he enjoys seeing students engaged with their work. As a classroom math teacher, he said seeing that engagement was difficult.

“Being here is so much more project-based,” he said of the STEAM classroom. “It’s just exciting for students. They’re engaged in it, and it covers important skills that I know they’ll use in the future.”

Buchanan said STEAM is a great opportunity for students.

“I think we’ll be able to develop some foundational skills here that they can take to the next level when they get to middle and high school,” he said. “I'm excited to see how it grows.”

Maize South Intermediate School STEAM teacher James Buchanan works with his students.

Read the STEAM series