Clarendon I STEAM Institute a success
From The Sumter Daily Item Article and photo by Konstantin Vengerowsky
From learning stop-motion animation to basket weaving, students in Clarendon School District 1 are learning various skills this summer through a hands-on program that engages their creativity and develops their critical thinking skills. About 100 students, grades three through eight, are participating in the Engaging Creative Minds' Summer Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math Institute, a free six-week program being held for the second year at St. Paul Elementary School in Summerton. The program ended Friday, with a showcase of what the students learned. The summer program is a project of Engaging Creative Minds, a nonprofit Charleston organization which started two years ago with programs in eight schools in Charleston County. The organization hires local artists and professionals in the visual, dance, music and theater arts and gives them an opportunity to teach their skills to students. The program integrates arts activities into science, technology, engineering and math subject areas. "This program combines traditional subject areas with arts activities, something that is unique in rural school districts," said Robin Berlinsky, executive director of the organization. One goal is to address the loss of learning during the summer months while engaging students in exciting activities, said Terry K. Peterson, one of the program's founders and senior fellow for education at College of Charleston. "Research clearly shows many students suffer learning losses over the summer," he said. "There are not many affordable summer learning programs in the communities that need them the most, and some that may exist are not engaging. The STEAM summer camps have found an excellent recipe for student, teacher and artist engagement and thus student success in the summers." South Carolina Arts Commission funded the program this year through a $100,000 grant, and the program could be used as a model in other rural areas, Berlinsky said. Each week of the program includes a different theme, such as engineering, chemistry, the solar system, computer science, marine life and entrepreneurship. Kari Maastricht, camp director, said activities were brainstormed to revolve around the different themes and combine STEAM subject areas. A week before the camp started, the organization's staff met with the local artists and teachers to develop a curriculum. "We have heard from many teachers who are telling us how they want to integrate art activities now into their curriculum during the school year," Maastricht said. "Because the teachers serve as camp counselors, they are able to have the same experiences as the students." Tiffany Housey, who will work as an art teacher at the school starting this school year, taught students the basics of stop-motion animation and craft making. "We were able to integrate math and animation together," she said. Housey's students built characters out of clay, photographed them with tablet devices and then using a stop-motion animation project made videos. "They had so much fun doing the projects that they forgot they were actually learning," Housey said. "I definitely discovered a love for teaching during this program." Lori Koon, a fourth-grade teacher at the school, said the program is a great assessment tool for the teachers. "It has opened my eyes for students to have unique ways to get engaged in different topic areas," she said. "They acquire many new skills in the program." Tyrese Lawson, a senior at Scott's Branch Middle-High School, served as one of the camp counselors. Lawson said he enjoyed working with the students, especially in the visual-arts component. Rosandra Bennett, a sixth-grade student at St. Paul, said besides all of the camp's activities, she enjoyed the field trips students took to Charleston and Columbia. Students had the opportunity to tour the Boeing plant in Charleston, Fort Sumter and South Carolina Aquarium. The organization partners with Boeing to make the camp possible. Clarendon 1 Superintendent Rose Wilder said she was thankful for the district being able to host the program again this year. "We've been very blessed to once again have the program at St. Paul Elementary School," she said. "The students were engaged and impacted through the hands-on material they learned." State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman said it is her goal for every at-risk student in South Carolina to have access to high-quality extended learning opportunities. "Learning through the arts makes this a reality through a fun, innovative approach," she said. For more information on Engaging Creative Minds, visit www.engagingcreativeminds.org. Image: Clarendon School District 1 fifth-grade student Jordan Kind, left, seventh-grade student Carlos Cruz and Lori Koon, a fourth-grade teacher at St. Paul Elementary School, construct a hat out of different materials on Wednesday. The project was an activity of the Summer Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math Institute provided by Engaging Creative Minds.