STEM education is still all the rage, but adding the arts to science, technology, engineering and math to make STEAM is catching on.
Locally, the movement just got some help in the form of $222,000 in grants to school districts in Allegheny County (and a few in Washington County) from the Allegheny Intermediate Unit
's Center for Creativity, with money from the Claude Worthington Benedum and Grable foundations.
Adding the arts to the more technical STEM subjects makes a lot of sense when you're pursuing high-tech innovation, says Center for Creativity Director Kelley Beeson, since "technology is the way we get here," Beeson says, "but the arts are where the ideas come from."
The Center for Creativity is a new initiative to bring students and teachers together to try unconventional learning methods, she explains, and that's exactly what the top grants of $20,000, awarded to five districts, are intended to foster.
Allegheny Valley School District, for instance, is using a butterfly garden and bird sanctuary as living outdoor classrooms, working with the Audubon Society, the Rachel Carson Homestead, a landscape architect and others to construct science, math, art and other stations. At Carlynton, they're creating a learning lab to encourage tinkering and making stuff, in the same vein as the MakeShop at the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh. Carlynton K-6th graders will explore the concepts of building and using machines, such as amusement park rides and different modes of transportation, with the Carnegie Science Center, Carnegie-Mellon University's Robotics Institute, among other local institutions.
Elizabeth-Forward will use full-body kinetic videogames to allowing students' bodies to be a kind of learning environment for STEAM lessons, while the Washington School District will create a Summer STEAM Academy for grades 2-12.
"These projects all share a very similar effort to change the classroom," says Beeson. "Students learn differently and probably more deeply when they're engaged in the learning process -- when they're actually involved in learning."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Kelley Beeson, Center for Creativity