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Grant to fund discovery room for Duquesne youngsters

By Patrick Cloonan Staff Reporter 
Saturday, May 30, 2015, 12:01 a.m.

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Youngsters in Duquesne Elementary School's primary grades will benefit from a $20,000 STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics) grant announced Friday by Allegheny Intermediate Unit.

“It's (for) an early childhood discovery room,” said Duquesne City School District instructional coach Jamie Schmidt, who wrote the grant application for Creation Station at Duquesne.

According to a project description submitted to the AIU, “Creation Station will offer our early childhood students (pre-kindergarten through first grade) an opportunity to explore, create, make and learn in a state-of-the art space specially designed to meet the needs of little hands and growing minds.”

Schmidt's application was accepted along with 27 others splitting $530,000 in grants awarded to programs meant to promote and encourage STEAM learning “in creative and innovative ways .... often times in a nontraditional way,” AIU executive director Linda Hippert said.

In Creation Station, Schmidt said, “students will access math, science, art and technology centers daily. Each center will house developmentally appropriate resources that will be use to physically and mentally engage all students in STEAM content.”

It's a hands-on approach, involving props, instruments, art supplies and tools with guidance from their teachers.

Schmidt said ASSET (Achieving Student Success through Excellence in Teaching) Science and Carnegie Science Center are partners along with AIU and Duquesne Elementary School.

“It took us about a month to come up with an idea and research what we would need to make it work,” Schmidt said.

Homestead-based AIU's Center for Creativity said the grants come from contributions made by Chevron, Claude Worthington Benedum and Grable foundations and are going to 18 Allegheny County districts and 10 others in Beaver, Greene, Lawrence, Mercer, Washington and Westmoreland counties.

“Over the past several years it has been the Grable Foundation and the Benedum Foundation that have contributed the total dollars,” Hippert said of a program issuing more than $2.63 million since 2009. “This year we have added Chevron.”

The AIU director said the purpose of the Center for Creativity is to connect educators with the innovators, scientists, technologists, thinkers and makers prevalent in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

Hippert said more than 90 grant applications were submitted and judged on such criteria as sustainability, implementation, relevance and STEAM integration.

“Most of the (44) Allegheny County districts applied,” Hippert said. “It did not mean that if someone did not get a grant that they did not present an excellent idea. There were so many that you had to select (them) based on the criteria for this year.”

The nearest grant recipient beyond Duquesne is Gateway, which is “STEAMing Through Fifth and Sixth Grades” at Moss Side Middle School.

Gateway officials said their project has as main components skills foundation, curricular integration and exploration. Moss Side's music, art, physical education and technology specialists will be involved.

Hippert said other school districts will be able to learn from what Duquesne does with Creation Station.

“That's happening all over the county,” she said. “School districts are learning from each other and collaborating like I have never seen before.”

Schmidt said Creation Station will go into operation this fall at Duquesne Elementary School.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or pcloonan@tribweb.com.

No one has yet fully realized the wealth of sympathy, kindness, and generosity hidden in the soul of a child. The effort of every true education should be to unlock that treasure.
-- Emma Golmam