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TMCNet:  Community gets opportunity to view school's STEAM room

[January 02, 2013]

Community gets opportunity to view school's STEAM room

Jan 02, 2013 (The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- An extensive building project neared completion before the holiday break at Crafton Elementary School.

"Renee!" fifth-grader Hannah Clark called across the room. "We're on the track!" "Yes!" came the answer.

Hannah was putting the finishing touches on the base for the K'NEX Corkscrew Coaster, a project that had taken her the better part of four to five lunch periods to complete in the school's new Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics room.

The school hosted an open house Dec. 19 for the community to see the projects fifth- and sixth-graders had been working on for the past month, since the STEAM room officially opened.

STEAM stands for "Science and Technology interpreted through Engineering and the Arts, all based in Mathematical elements." "It's just a way for kids to show off what they've been working on," principal Jacie Maslyk said. "And (also it's) just to get the word out there that learning can be fun in a hands-on way, and I think this demonstrates that." Among the projects students worked on: Next to Hannah, fifth-graders Olivia Robb and Mat Spragg were constructing a K'NEX Ferris Wheel, with Mat attaching the seats -- "he's the only one who can do it," Olivia said.

Across the room, fifth-grader Haley Williams used a computer program to control a robotic merry-go-round.

"Sometimes it won't work, so you kind of have to mess with it," she said, making it go faster and slower by using different commands on the computer.

In the front of the room, students controlled cars made from electronic circuits. Near the back of the room, students hovered over several iPads, playing educational games. And next to them, Renee Meyers used materials like clay and fabric to build a campground based on a blueprint she put together.

"You have to go through a lot of work and a lot of rough drafts," she said.

The STEAM room came about thanks to a $20,000 grant Maslyk secured from the Grable Foundation and the Calude Worthington Benedum Foundation over the summer. Carlynton was one of five school districts selected for the grant.

But Maslyk said the real push for STEAM at the school began three years ago. The district used earlier grants in the amounts of $10,000 and $7,500 to purchase video conferencing equipment and flip cameras for the classroom.

The latest grant gave the school an opportunity to purchase equipment and set aside a dedicated space for STEAM work. Maslyk said with the push for careers in related fields, having that room makes it possible for the students to learn important concepts in fun ways.

"The kids think they're playing," she said. "But when you sit down and you talk to them about 'how did you figure this out ' -- the boys that were building K'NEX were talking about angles. ... They're figuring things like that out, and they're not realizing, 'Oh, this is math that I'm doing.' Or 'I'm designing this -- this is what engineers do.' "I think part of what we need to do as educators is to show them those career connections a little bit more." While the fifth- and sixth-graders had worked on their projects mostly during lunch periods, Maslyk said she hopes to see it become more curriculum-based.

It already appears to be happening, as a sign-up sheet on the door was full of teachers from various grade levels scheduling their classes for the room.

"For some kids, this is their niche," Maslyk said, as opposed to book learning. "What better way to tap into their interest than providing something like this " Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-8527 or

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