Full STEAM Ahead: Collaboration Brings Success

Melissa Unger is one busy educator. The STEAM consultant for the South Fayette School District, she regularly travels to three very different schools helping to blend Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) into something students can not only grasp, but enjoy.  A recent project took her to Lauren Javens’ fourth grade class at Manchester Academic Charter School in Pittsburgh to help students create eTextiles, t-shirts that light up using a simple computer language. It combined lessons in electricity with computer programming, basic circuitry and art.

Q: What is STEAM and why is it important?
A: Although traditionally in a school setting art and science have been taught separately they truly are integrated in real world applications. Architects must understand structural support systems as well as aesthetics. Game designers must know computer programming and have a firm understanding of graphic design. Mechanical engineers must understand human centered design as well systems analysis.

Q: What is this partnership between three different schools – suburban, rural and urban?
A: The South Fayette Township School District received funding from The Grable Foundation to build computational thinking initiatives in partner schools, Fort Cherry School District and Manchester Academic Charter School, by providing outreach through professional development and classroom support.  This year I provided support in computational thinking  — Scratch block-based computer programming, eTextile design, MaKey MaKey, and WeDo Robotics — and environmental sustainability.

Q: What’s the best part of the partnership?
A: The most exciting aspect was bringing the students from each school together for an engineering and computer programming design challenge, GameJam.  We found all students and teachers shared the same enthusiasm and passion for STEAM learning.

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