Adam Colestock is a STEAM (STEM and Arts) and Coding integration teacher at The Francis W. Parker School in Chicago, Illinois. He introduces computer science to grades 4-8 through units that integrate a significant programming component into the curriculum. He also co-designs and facilitates immersive projects that develop students’ experience in design and engineering, including a STEM week for 5th graders and an interdisciplinary design week for 7th graders. Colestock also runs the middle school robotics program, which participates in FIRST LEGO League competition and hosts open-ended student projects with LEGO EV3 Mindstorms kits.
What fuels your passion for science and teaching?
My love of learning and problem solving. I love to ask questions, learn about how things work, and make things. I believe that life is more interesting and exciting when you are engaged with looking closely at the world, seeking to understand its complexity and finding opportunity to design things that are meaningful to you or can make a difference for others. I hope to ignite a similar mindset in those I teach.
In three words, what would your students say they learned from you?
Inquire. Construct. Iterate. (And enjoy!)
Do you have a science demo that students find particularly compelling? What makes it so interesting for them?
I find that many kids are totally fascinated by robots. We recently had the middle and upper school robotics teams from our school presenting their robots to the younger grades (junior kindergarten through 2nd grade) and the kids were totally captivated. I think that the combination of robots being made by humans and yet also having a quality of ‘aliveness’ makes them curious and wonderful creatures to observe and interact with. I have found that many kids are extremely motivated to learn how to construct and program their own robots.
Share a Web link/video/blog etc. that you’ve used in the classroom that really excited your students. What makes it most compelling?
I co-teach a space science unit for the 4th grade in which students are introduced to the Google Lunar XPRIZE and the design of rovers for the moon and other planets. They make observations of the phases of the moon, program a rover simulator, build and operate a rover with the LEGO EV3 robotics kits, and participate in a NASA/Design Squad challenge to use everyday materials to design a craft that can facilitate a soft landing for marshmallow astronauts. A few videos that we watch really seem to tap into the kids’ imaginations and energize their learning. These include the intro video for the Google Lunar X Prize called “Back to the Moon for Good” and a short National Geographic Live talk called “The Curious Life of a Mars Rover”.
Tell us about a hobby or passion outside of work.
I enjoy rock climbing and daily yoga practice. Both help to develop strength, balance, flexibility, endurance, and focus (all qualities that are useful during long days of teaching). These minds-on activities provide a nice balance between meditation and challenge, have interesting problems to solve and provide ample opportunity for marveling at the biomechanics of this amazing machine we inhabit.