Students at Shorecrest Preparatory School in St. Petersburg have a number of opportunities to pursue areas of interest throughout the ninth to 12th-grade Upper School curriculum.
Signature programs like the Global Scholars Initiative and the Center for Medical Sciences offer formal opportunities for students passionate about global studies and applied medical sciences. New this school year, students may also choose to pursue the STEAM Signature Program, a specialized track that allows them to earn a certificate in one of the three STEAM areas of study – Computer Science, Engineering, or Entrepreneurship and Design.
In addition to taking at least three courses within their specific area of study, students must participate in an Applied STEAM and Entrepreneurship seminar, in which they work on a culminating project. The inaugural seminar is under the direction of Dr. Anna Baralt, Director of Educational Technology at Shorecrest.
“Like so many things this year, this class had to pivot due to COVID-19 and the necessary health and safety protocols,” Baralt says. “Originally, the course was designed to have students out in the community as well as creating something for their younger peers on campus as the culminating project. We adapted and the students have been so responsive and open with the changes, I think they’ve only made the course better – part of being an entrepreneur is adapting to unforeseen circumstances!”
After weeks of work, classmates Spencer Mendelsohn ‘21 and Anthony Vivio ‘21 presented phase one of their project to a small group of administrators. The pair used the design thinking process to create a shoe whose brand is connected to one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The group first explained the five-step design thinking process to their audience—Empathize, Design, Ideate, Prototype and Test—then discussed the Sustainable Development Goal they chose to pursue.
Vivio and Mendelsohn chose to support the environment, aiming to promote the planting of trees and use of recycled materials in their product. Their shoe, a unisex sandal made of hemp canvas, hemp plastic and cork, has seeds embedded into the sole, allowing the shoe to be planted once it’s outlived its usefulness as footwear. As they progress with their project, the students will merge fashion and function to meet their sustainability goal and customer preferences.
Through audience feedback, the students were challenged to think about their target audience, differences in cultural interpretations, brand positioning and how to improve upon their ideas for the next phase of the project.
Diego Duran-Medina, Shorecrest Director of Service Learning, says he was impressed with the idea of designing for and with a purpose. “It was great to see our core value of compassion applied in a classroom context through STEAM,” he says.
“I was impressed with prototypes of the shoes which demonstrated the hands-on nature of the project,” says Shorecrest Head of School Nancy Spencer. “There was a lot of thought put into the design-thinking and purpose of the product.”
The students will maintain a portfolio of their work throughout the year-long course. The Class of 2021 is the first group to whom the STEAM certificate is offered. Learn more at www.shorecrest.org/steam.