Schools receive STEAM grants for creative projects

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Wylandville Elementary School is about to get greener. Wylandville, the smallest of seven elementary schools in Canon-McMillan School District, received a $20,000 grant to defray the cost of building a greenhouse for classroom use.


The $20,000 STEAM grants – science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics learning – were awarded by the Center for Creativity to 25 Western Pennsylvania schools this year, including three schools in Washington County. Fort Cherry Elementary received a grant for its “Little Rangers Make Shop,” and McGuffey Middle School received a grant for its “Learning is 3D” program.


Grants are awarded to schools with winning proposals to “transform a ‘space or place’ within their buildings to one that encompasses an integrated approach to STEAM,” according to the Center for Creativity’s website. The grant program is funded by the Grable and Benedum foundations and coordinated by Allegheny Intermediate Unit and Intermediate Unit 1.


Nina Unitas, principal of Wylandville Elementary, said the greenhouse should be running by September. She said the idea was born when she and a parent in the district started “dreaming up” ways to engage students in a fun, hands-on way. Students would be encouraged to learn about “farm-to-table” concepts by growing lettuce and tomatoes to be served in the school’s cafeteria.


“We can look at pictures on the Internet or videos,” Unitas said, “but for them to actually be interacting with the environment through experimentation and investigation and creative problem solving is going to be where they’re going to get that sense of pride and ownership.”


The school plans to purchase Lytro cameras capable of refocusing images, and students will manage a Twitter account to document their greenhouse projects. An interdisciplinary artist also will be involved in the program through the school’s residency partnership with Gateway to the Arts.


Fort Cherry School District received STEAM grants for the past five years. Trisha Craig, director of curriculum, said this year’s grant will help the school transform a traditional computer lab for students in grades four through six into a more versatile learning area.


Craig said the school will be replacing its outdated desktop N-computing systems with laptops, iPads, a new multimedia smartboard and hummingbird robotics kits. The lab also will be revamped with newer furniture and a coat of paint.


“They want you to take traditional spaces and make them into innovative creative spaces,” Craig said of the grant program. “It’s about kids being able to create and do hands-on activities.”


McGuffey administrators were not immediately available to comment on the district’s plans for its grant.


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