Twenty-five school districts in southwestern Pennsylvania are receiving grants of $20,000 apiece to create digital learning spaces for students of all ages.
“My heart was filled with joy,” said Rosanne Javorsky, assistant executive director of the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, reacting to the 80 proposals for grants to create innovative spaces to engage students in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math).
The AIU’s Center for Creativity is distributing the grants, which are funded by the Benedum and Grable Foundations.
Javorsky said she was so impressed by the proposals they could have awarded “50 grants and found that they were all going to be put to good use.”
It’s the fifth year for the grants and Javorsky said the quality of the proposals has evolved from just wanting “to buy equipment, buy stuff.”
“I can honestly say the majority of the grants that we reviewed were really promoting a vision of STEAM education within their schools," she said. "They really saw it as a means of engaging kids.”
The applications were rated on seven criteria including the two most important: integration and relevance.
“As it relates to capturing students’ interest, increasing student engagement, motivation and achievement," Javorsky said. "The second thing was does it really embody all of those STEAM components? Does it talk about science, technology, engineering, the arts and math across content areas? Or just it just about math or science individually because we were really looking for that integration.”
She said the grants are being distributed to elementary, middle and high schools, and the winning projects range from creation of a robotics laboratory to a media studio to immersive music centers.
Javorsky said southwestern Pennsylvania is a leader when it comes to linking the sciences, math and the arts and engaging students.
“One thing we should be proud of, we’ve been saying STEAM now for five years where the rest of the country just seems to be catching on,” she said.