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Lander, District 50 Reap Benefits of STEAM Grant

Lander University preservice teachers Elizabeth Childress and Chase Maxwell, in foreground, construct a simple circuit to demonstrate their understanding of the flow of electricity during a STEAM grant workshop held at Lander. Photo by Laura Brown

Lander University's Department of Teacher Education, along with Greenwood School District 50, recently completed a collaborative learning project made possible by a STEAM grant from South Carolina's Coalition for Mathematics and Science at Clemson University.

The STEAM grant, an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics, funded a crash course in engineering for fourth and fifth graders at Rice Elementary School utilizing Hummingbird robotics kits, made by Birdbrain Technologies.

Fourth graders studied biomimicry and adaptations to create "animals" capable of responding to stimuli based on computer coding. Fifth graders worked with engineers from Velux, the skylight manufacturer in Greenwood, to develop computer-controlled "cars" using recycled materials.

Lander education majors, whose coursework includes classes in STEAM education, worked alongside District 50 teachers to implement a coding-based project. They and their District 50 counterparts attended two professional development classes at Lander led by Sue Pietrusza, a South Carolina STEM Centers educational specialist, who demonstrated different applications for the Makey Makey electronic invention kit, which allows users to take everyday objects and combine them with basic circuitry and programming to control a computer.

Assistant Professor of Education Dr. Rachel Schiera, who teaches Lander's STEAM education classes, said that new science standards are on the way for schools in South Carolina, and these standards will require students to be able to both know about and do science. "Makey Makey is very supportive of that," she remarked.

Preparing students for jobs that require higher level thinking skills "is our entire goal," said Associate Professor of Education Dr. Susan Fernandez, chair of Lander's Department of Teacher Education and one of the authors of the grant proposal.

"It's about creating our work force," Fernandez said.