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AIU STEAM Grant Showcase: arts and tech collide for amazing projects

Marty Levine
September05/ 2014

Picture a science fair in which kids are not just making models of molecules, they’re making the stuff that makes the models, using 3D printers, and also repairing their classroom equipment by making their own parts.

Now add an arts component to the mix—teaching those same kids how to reproduce artifacts from history in their Social Studies courses, for instance—and you’ve got the type of projects on display Sept. 11 at the AIU STEAM Grant Showcase. It will show off 25 schools’ work at the IBEW building on the South Side.

The AIU, or Allegheny Intermediate Unit, gave $20,000 each to 25 schools last year to create projects that emphasize STEAM learning—science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics. If you attend the showcase, says Megan Cicconi, AIU’s curriculum and reading coordinator, you “will be shocked at how the culture of learning has changed. Teachers, administrators, and students will be inspired.”

And everyone will see “how infusing STEAM concepts into formal education can transform learning.”

The projects from Allegheny, Beaver, Butler and Westmoreland schools, she says, show how student ideas and interests can be incorporated effectively in learning. In Fox Chapel’s Creativity and Literacy Program, 3- to 5-year-olds got lessons about gravity, balance and measurement through building projects and books. At the Locomotion Lab in Chartiers Valley, science and art were linked through screen printing to robotics. Students in West Jefferson Hills created a television studio, while Butler Area kids made skateboards and electric guitars by learning the technology behind their design, manufacture and decoration.

The showcase will also feature the work of local businesses and nonprofits who teach and encourage STEAM, including Tom Lauwers’ robots from BirdBrain Technologies, Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, the Senator John Heinz History Center, Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, Society for Contemporary Craft, Zulama and others

“People hear STEAM all the time—they think it just means every subject we’re teaching,” notes Rosanne Javorsky, assistant executive director for teaching and learning. “But STEAM is much more than that. We’re really aiming for the infusion of arts in all curricular areas.” And for all ages: “People are shocked to find out that third and fourth graders could be learning coding.”

She hopes educators and administrators, business people and nonprofits will attend, both to see the work and to learn how they can collaborate for future projects.

The AIU’s STEAM grants were funded by the Grable and Benedum foundations.

Marty Levine