In late May, 26 regional public school districts were notified that they had been selected as recipients of the 2016-17 STEAM Grants, awarded by the Center of Creativity at the Allegheny Intermediate Unit. The grants, which are funded by Chevron and the Benedum and Grable foundations, offer schools the opportunity to creatively expand STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Mathematics) learning at either the school or district level. Now in its eighth consecutive year, nearly 175 grants have been awarded with over $3 million in funding provided to school districts throughout southwestern Pennsylvania.
This year’s grantees span across Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Lawrence, Washington, and Westmorland counties. 80 proposals were submitted this year, with projects selected for criteria including sustainability, scalability, STEAM integration, and dissemination of project results.
Whereas previous grant cycles centered around a theme, such as last year’s creation of new learning spaces, this year provided applicants increased flexibility, which was reflected in the highly creative and unique project proposals. Selected projects include the “Allegheny Imagination Station 4 Innovation” at Moore Elementary in the Brentwood Borough School District, a program designed to “combine robotics, digital tools, and animation.” Evergreen Elementary in the Gateway School District will use their funding to expand coding in kindergarten through grade 4, “immersing students in the real world process of imagination, design, and production of STEAM-based concepts and technology.” The McGuffey School District in Washington County will design and implement a district-wide initiative named “Echolocation Art: An Encore of International Study.” The project will utilize international music partnerships to create an art installation which takes the user “through a sensory narrative experience that encourages curiosity and play.”
Other schools will use their grant to scale and expand upon projects that were funded by previous STEAM Grants. Duquense Elementary in the Duquense City School District, for example, used funding from their 2015-16 STEAM Grant to repurpose space in the basement of the school into “The Creation Station”, a room that Assistant Principal Stanley Whiteman said encompasses all STEAM components and allows the school’s early childhood students the chance to explore and create. Whiteman, who stated that the project was a work in progress until the very end of the school year, recalls the power in watching “students create and discover their learning” and “teachers transform their instruction with new materials and technology.”
The school will use what they learned throughout the process of creating “The Creation Station” as they use their 2016-17 STEAM Grant next year to repurpose an additional space in the school into “The Boiler Room” for intermediate level students. Whiteman stated, “This room will move beyond creative play and focus more on Science curriculum and all STEAM content.”
Recipients will receive their grant in late summer and will work through the 2016-17 school year in implementing and refining their project, culminating in the annual STEAM Showcase in the fall of 2017.
A complete list of 2016-17 STEAM Grant recipients can be viewed here.