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STEM to STEAM: CrossRoads Intermediate pilots new Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math program

From MidlandsBiz.com

IRMO, SC – It’s early September, and CrossRoads Intermediate School is teeming with activity: two students ponder the artistry in a set of 3-D printers. A few feet down the hall, a group of teachers discuss a new school club where students will create new board games. Around another corner, students in a math class use paper to draw patterns and construct three-dimensional shapes. “Welcome to STEAM education,” said CrossRoads Intermediate Principal Jess Hutchison. While STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math – has been a hot topic in the educational sector for several years, school leaders in Lexington-Richland School District Five say they see a value in broadening the focus to include communications and other arts-based disciplines. CrossRoads Intermediate School is piloting a STEAM program this school year, and other schools also have implemented STEAM lessons in classrooms across the district. “We changed our name from CrossRoads Middle to CrossRoads Intermediate this school year, but the most significant change is not the signage outside but the exciting things that are happening inside our classrooms with STEAM,” Hutchinson said. “To us, the ‘A’ in STEAM represents performing arts, visual arts and the humanities. I think a lot of people in education now realize that there still needs to be a focus on being able to communicate properly, on being able to collaborate and present information….A STEAM approach includes this in all classes, for all students and prepares them for 21st century jobs.” Morning classroom meetings now include a biweekly STEAM activity, and teachers work in “interdisciplinary teams” to create cross-curriculum lessons that weave academic disciplines together, like art and math or science and language arts. On “STEAM Fridays,” students in the school participate in more than 40 clubs added this school year to blend STEM concepts with arts. Trash Can Band, drama, sewing, even a Rubik’s Cube club are provided to expose students to STEAM, school leaders say. “The arts have been added to help students develop creative thought, collaboration and empathy…which are all key in innovation,” said CrossRoads Intermediate Assistant Principal for Instruction Tara Safriet. “The skills that students need, those in the state’s Profile of the South Carolina Graduate, include the ability to speak and articulate learning, the ability to work with others, be collaborative…We’ve always provided quality academics, and our new clubs and STEAM focus lends itself to sharpening critical cross-curricula skills.” Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 1.34.06 PMFormerly CrossRoads Middle School, the newly named CrossRoads Intermediate School received top ratings on both the latest federal and state accountability systems. The school still houses sixth grade students from the 10 elementary schools that come together to form CrossRoads Intermediate’s student body. Twenty-nine teachers at the school have their National Board Certification, and a teacher and three students from the school were named grand prize winners of the 2015 Belk Service Learning Challenge. CrossRoads’ STEAM program is a school-wide program, a change from the original plan, Hutchinson said. “Students originally had to sign up for the STEAM program…We received so much interest that we just decided to make it a school-wide initiative, impacting all students and all staff. The feedback so far has been overwhelmingly positive,” he said. For teachers like Kimberly Chavis, Allison Blanchard and Deborah Batson, the STEAM program has challenged both students and teachers. “It’s definitely made me think about all the subjects combined. For example my class was doing quadrants, and we used Roman numerals to do quadrants,” Chavis said. “The kids asked me things about that, and I was able to tie in information from their social studies class…We (teachers) are just making a really conscious effort to make sure we incorporate all the different subjects in our classes.” Blanchard, who teaches social studies, added: “For those students that are a little more creative in arts, it helps them express themselves and take interest in all subjects. And for students who take an interest in traditional STEM courses, it makes them look at their learning in a different way,” said Blanchard, a social studies teacher. “It’s a win-win for the students and teachers.” The focus is on bringing everything together and letting students know that “engineering doesn’t just happen in math. Math doesn’t just happen in math class,” said Batson, a language arts teacher, who will co-sponsor a board game club with Chavis. “Those connections are important in making learning applicable and sparking new ideas. We want to see what they can create…the problems they can solve.” Students are already enjoying the new STEAM implementation. Working on prosthetic hands in an Intro to STEM class, Alyssa McFarland and Hailey Blessing say they are well aware of the school’s new STEAM focus and how it can help them narrow down possible career choices. “I’m interested in science, and I want to do something that brings joy to people…this is kind of like both,” said McFarland, an avid painter and artist who is interested in becoming a doctor. “I actually didn’t sign up for STEAM, so I’m glad it’s been spread to all classes.” “I have never done anything like this before, but I wanted to try something new and have an adventure,” said Blessing, who thought she would have to choose between the STEM class and an art course before the school-wide implementation. “My favorite subjects have always been science and art…Now, I don’t have to choose.” This was the intent of STEAM at CrossRoads Intermediate, giving students exposure to all content areas and making connections from class to class, educators said. “I think students especially at this age sometimes think you learn it in this room, you do it in this room, and that’s the only place it applies,” Chavis said. “But if you can get them to connect learning from classroom to classroom, you can get them to connect it outside of school, into real life, into next year and beyond.”

Tri-District Arts Consortium celebrates 30 years of providing arts to Midlands students

From ColaDaily.com Article by Kelly Petty, photos by David Mitchell

Ellie Rose Feuerstein can’t remember when she wanted to become an actress but says she felt a spark when she danced in front of a crowd at Disney World when she was 3 years old. The rising ninth-grader has taken dance, attended camps, sings and even plays the guitar. But an opportunity to join Tri-District Arts Consortium has helped her demonstrate her strength as a performer and as a person. “Tri-DAC has really helped me become a better singer, actor and dancer,” she said. [caption id="attachment_21563" align="alignright" width="300"]TriDAC The jazz ensemble performs.[/caption] Tri-District Arts Consortium, known as Tri-DAC, was founded in 1985 by a group of teachers in Lexington One, Lexington-Richland Five and Richland Two school districts. Those teachers were looking to give middle school students the chance to hone their passion and talent for the arts. The program, now in its 30th year, is celebrating its new home at Richland Northeast High School’s Palmetto Center for the Arts and its place as a stomping ground for future artists, musicians and actors. “The idea was to give more in-depth exposure to specific art areas for students who had shown talent in one or more areas of the arts. Oftentimes, when a student is gifted in one area … they may also be gifted in other areas,” said Stephen Hefner, superintendent of Lexington-Richland Five and one of Tri-DAC’s founders. “So, we wanted something that gave them exposure to a broader range and more art forms than just the one that maybe they were most interested in.” The program originally started off with a cohort of 150 gifted and talented students who spent their summers on the campus of Columbia College. Hefner, who was with Richland School District Two at the time, said the women’s college provided a neutral spot for students from the three districts to meet. “We met with the president of Columbia College, who was Dr. Ralph Mirse,” Hefner said. “We approached him and said it would be good to have a location that wasn’t identifiable with one district alone.” The summer program now hosts about 450 students a year. For 23 years, students visited Columbia College to study dance, music, theatre and visual art. The program grew during that time, earning the Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Award for arts education in 1991 and adding creative writing in 1995. The program eventually was invited to join Richland Northeast’s arts magnet program in 2009. “This is the same high energy, high spirited, exciting place it has always been since we opened the doors,” said Executive Director Donna Wilson, who has been with the program since its inception. “The vision behind it is really spectacular. The program has become a model for other consortia in South Carolina.” Rising sixth-graders through rising ninth-graders are eligible to take part in the program. Students can be nominated by a teacher, parent or themselves, and they must go through a rigorous audition process. Experience is not necessary to be admitted, Wilson said. Students spend the the first three weeks of July taking classes and finish with a showcase festival at the end of the program. Tri-DAC taps into professional talent nationally and internationally to give students an opportunity to be trained from the best in their fields of study. This year, world-renowned artists Giorgos Mitsis from Greece and Shirou Shirai from Japan were invited to conduct classes with the students. “What we want for every child is that they be a great supporter of the arts,” said Diane Gilbert, a 10-year theater co-director for Tri-DAC. The program also boast a dedicated staff, many of whom have been participating for more than a decade. “[The students] work with a wonderful staff who’s so committed, who overworks,” said Cindy Flach, a dance instructor in USC’s dance and theater program who has been with Tri-DAC for 22 years. Wilson said she has seen students go on to attend the Governor’s School of the Arts, study their craft in college and pursue professional careers. Edmund Bagnell studied strings and theater in the program, and he studied at the Governor’s School before heading to New York University’s Steinhardt School of Music. Bagnell eventually went on to play Tobias in the national tour of “Sweeney Todd” and formed his own classical string quartet Well Strung. Chryssie Whitehead studied dance and theater and eventually earned the role of Christine in the Broadway revival of “A Chorus Line.” She has been featured on television and film. “It’s just exciting for the students to have this opportunity to discover their potential,” Wilson said. The success stories are why Hefner thinks Tri-DAC is a “an outside-the-box idea” that has benefited the students who participate as well as the whole community. “We also believe that art adds value to everyone’s life, whether they choose a career inside the arts or not,” Hefner said. “We hope Tri-DAC and exposure to the arts will enrich all their lives.” Feuerstein, much like Coco Hernandez in the film “Fame,” wants people to remember her name. She plans to continue studying theater when she heads to Blythewood High School this coming school year, and she wants to focus on singing and guitar. She said she hopes those who come behind her in Tri-DAC take advantage of the program. “Don’t be afraid to try something new because in the end it will pay off and you’ll have an amazing time and an amazing experience,” she said.