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00000176-e6f7-dce8-adff-f6f7707e000090.5 WESA's Life of Learning series focuses on learning and education activities, opportunities and challenges in the Greater Pittsburgh area.This multi-year commitment to providing learning-focused news coverage in southwestern Pennsylvania is made possible by a generous grant from the Grable Foundation.

Pittsburgh Public Schools To Launch STEAM Curriculum With $900,000 Grants

Nearly $900,000 in grant funding has been pledged to implement Pittsburgh Public School’s plan to transition a Bloomfield elementary school into a partial STEAM magnet.

The school board voted to develop Woolslair PreK-5, the district’s smallest school with 110 students, into a partial science, technology, engineering, arts and math – or STEAM – magnet school in September after initial plans to close the school. The plan also includes developing curriculum at three other STEAM magnets, Lincoln prek-5, Schiller 6-8 and Perry High School. The board will vote to accept the grants at the April 22 legislative meeting.

The grants from the Grable Foundation and the Fund for Excellence will be used to hire two STEAM instructors for the four schools as well as implement STEAM in the curriculum, said the district’s STEAM coordinator Shaun Tomaszewski.

“We’ll be using it to renovate existing physical spaces, to provide faculty with professional development and to purchase instructional materials they might need to implement the curriculum,” he said.

Existing spaces in the schools will be transformed into STEAM labs. Students will learn and complete projects in the labs, but Tomaszewski said the more impactful learning will come from STEAM instructors co-teaching extended project-based modules across all grade levels every 9-weeks.

“Our current vision for STEAM education is to provide experiences where kids will eventually not just participate in the economy as consumers of things, but have the capacity to really be makers of things,” he said.

Students at Schiller recently created model-levees. Tomaszewski said in the STEAM learning approach, the project would be expanded in multiple disciplines.  

“So you can imagine that levy project could involve extensions into civics education where kids are talking about what went wrong with the levees in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina,” he said.

As STEAM coordinator for the district, Tomaszewski focuses on the work of the STEAM magnets, but the grant funders, he says, want to foster the innovation of STEAM across the district. The funding will also be used to make mini-grants available to teachers throughout the district to develop their own STEAM programming.  

“We’re also committed to spreading this innovation to all of our buildings so these STEAM mini-grants will be available for individual teachers or principals so that they can develop STEAM activities and learning experiences for kids in their own spaces,” he said.  

The two hired STEAM faculty will begin during the 2015-16 school year and extended programing for Perry High School will start in the 2016-17 year.