Officials from the Greenbrier community gathered together at Westside Elementary on Wednesday for the grand opening of the school’s new STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) lab.
Assistant Principal Tally Harp said the school was recognized for being in the top 5 percent in growth in the state, based on the 2015-16 school year.
Because of that accomplishment, the school was awarded $40,000, and after forming a committee to determine where that money should go, Harp said a good sum of that was put toward the development of a STEAM lab.
“The purpose behind STEAM is when you look at what the jobs are in the future for our kids, all of them involve engineering and math and science in some way,” she said. “Problem solving is a huge piece of that.”
Being able to incorporate STEAM into a student’s everyday life and showing them how different aspects work hand in hand, Harp said, helps to prepare them to solve those problems in the future.
“Some of the research shows that jobs that involve STEAM have gone up — I think it’s 18 percent in the last few years, whereas jobs that don’t involve any type of STEAM have only increased about 2 percent,” she said. “So, it’s just a huge push to make sure our kids prepare.”
Having been in education for the past 20 years, Harp said she’s noticed the technological shift personally.
“The biggest piece of it started with the technology [and] incorporating computers more in the classroom,” she said.
Harp said that has evolved and now technology is used throughout the schools, from the use of 3D printers to Robotics Club to testing.
“There’s not any job you do now a days that doesn’t involve some type of technology skills,” she said. “Anything and everything involves math and science in some way.”
Harp said all the elementary schools have some form of a STEAM room including every school having a 3D printer.
“It’s just about being able to add to and build more into the program for the students,” she said.
This summer, Harp said Westside entered into a partnership with the Carnegie STEM Pathway and the Museum of Discovery to bring in community training and support for the efforts and will attend around four sessions with the STEAM team of five teachers, including the fifth-grade science, third-grade science, the gifted and talented specialist, K-second grade and the media specialist.
“We learn how to facilitate and improve our STEAM program … how to structure and build STEAM lessons,” she said.
Everyone from the students to the teachers — who had their own night to help setup and experiment with the items — alike are excited for the new addition.
”We had so much fun that night putting the stuff up and playing with it and talking about ‘oh how we could use this’ and ‘oh how much fun is this going to be,’” Harp said. “So yeah, the teachers are very excited.”
Items in the new lab for STEAM use include phones, computers and hard drives, an art station, the 3D printer, a tool station, a horticulture station, consumable materials cabinet with yarn, glue and more, a health area with models, a drone, sewing center, mobile Legos station, microscopes, tinker station, coding tools, resource books and more.
“We want our students to have a multitude of experiences so they can play a key role in their own futures and begin that future with a solid foundation of STEAM concepts,” Harp said.