Tomás Yan has loved science for as long as he can remember. When he was five years old his parents bought him a chemistry set and from that moment, he was hooked.
Now the scientist-turned-teacher at Antioch Middle School is finding creative ways to inspire the next generation of scientists through the district’s STEAM initiative, which is engaging students in developing their creative, communication, collaboration and critical thinking skills.
“I am not just teaching the subject matter, I am teaching them to learn, how to ask questions, how to experiment and how to create,” Yan said.
He designs his classes around experiments and other hands-on activities to bring STEAM to life for students.
“There is nothing better than seeing a troubled student suddenly engaged in a classroom activity,” Yan said. “It’s not unusual to see a kid talking or acting out in class, but when they walk into my classroom and see how hands-on it is, it’s amazing to see that transformation. Students are able to exercise both sides of their brain at once.”
Yan has spent years collecting tools and technology for his lab and he has even bigger plans for the future. He recently received a grant from MNPS Libraries to build a virtual reality lab and a hydroponic lab to explore growing plants without soil and using mineral nutrient solutions in a water solvent. His goal is for students to be able to start with a seed and grow their own food to be sold at a student-run farmers market. The money raised will either go back into the program or be donated to a local food bank. Yan said not only will students receive real-life business experience, they will also learn the importance of giving back to the community.
“STEAM isn’t something you read in a book. It is a culture, a way of living,” Yan said. “STEAM is a part of our everyday lives, we just have to open our eyes and look for it.”
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