As I walked into Benjamin Franklin Middle School’s media center, I was greeted by twenty middle school girls who were hard at work, synthesizing melodies on the computer. Valparaiso Community Schools held its STEAM Camp during the week of June 20th.
Olga Granat, technology integration specialist for Valparaiso Community Schools, is spearheading the program alongside Flint Lake Elementary Principal Erin Hawkins. The two educators recognized the importance of expanding engineering, math, and art studies within the Valpo school system, motivating them to learn more about STEAM. The program has existed within Valpo schools for two years now and is exclusive to girls who are going into middle school.
Granat said, “We’ve found that a lot of times, girls start losing interest in math and science during that transition from elementary to middle school. This problem is what we are trying to address. We’re trying to get them excited about learning about math, technology, and engineering.”
The STEAM initiative is a bit different that STEM. STEAM includes science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics. It is imperative that students learn the importance of art and design. Not only does this allow students to develop their problem-solving skills, but students are also able to demonstrate their creativity by combining art with math and science. The girls who attend the program have a range of interests. Whether or not they are particularly interested in science or math, they all have one thing in common: their hunger for learning.
Flint Lake Principal Erin Hawkins said, “The program provides students from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences the opportunity to expand their knowledge about STEAM concepts. It is very open-ended, and the students who attend are eager to learn. Valparaiso Community Schools has made several strides in expanding science and math studies through programs such as this.”
The program is funded by Valparaiso Community Schools. The students have three field trips, and several experts come talk to the students at the middle school throughout the week. The students went to Purdue Northwest to learn more about technology and robotics. They also went to our very own Valparaiso University to take a look at different materials that are used in engineering.
Additionally, the students had the opportunity to experiment with visual art and film art through different online software and programs. Valparaiso University’s Department of Computing and Information Sciences Chair James Caristi led the students through their musical endeavors on the morning of Thursday, June 30.
Indiana Department of Education Outreach Coordinator Jennifer Kwiatkowski said, “All of the educational research that’s been done the last couple of years argues that if we, as educators, let students play and be curious, students are more likely to be excited about learning. The exciting thing about a camp like this is that it allows girls who are about to enter middle school realize that their opportunities are endless.”
It is evident that the future of Valparaiso is in great hands. Valparaiso Community Schools has been making several positive changes, and we’re happy to see that STEAM is one of them.