Building STEAM

Students demonstrate circuits for parents and interested visitors. -Richard Phillips | OFFER

Students demonstrate circuits for parents and interested visitors. -Richard Phillips | OFFER

Last Thursday, Oneonta Middle School and the Oneonta Foundation for Educational Resources (OFFER) held an open house to showcase the school’s latest classroom, a state-of-the-art STEAM lab.

Middle school students have been enjoying the new lab since school started back in August and are making the most of the technologies available to them.

According to Stefanie Weston, STEAM facilitator, the lab has provided hands-on opportunities for students to explore the world of engineering and robotics in a new way. She said they are engaged in creating structures and writing code and exploring with the ideas of circuits and electricity.

“A great feature of the lab is that it allows students to work at their own individual learning pace,” she said. “Some students are understanding the basic components of circuitry through snap circuits while other students are working with real circuit boards and writing their own program codes.”

The lab also gives students a chance to use their artistic skills through programs such as Stop Motion Animation, which allows them to create drawings and bring them to life. They are exploring the world of graphic design through Photoshop and Google Draw. And they have various resources right at their fingertips that expose them to the world of architecture that allows them to build and design bridges and other structures.

“The lab is exposing students to activities that most children would never have access to without the lab,” Weston said. “Our hope is that the exposure they are experiencing in the lab will run over into their career choice for the future.

“At the close of each semester, students will research different careers they could choose based on their favorite activities within the lab. The cool thing about the lab is it gives students who may not perform as well academically a chance to be successful.”

The STEAM lab was made possible through an Appalachian Regional Commission grant that was awarded to the Oneonta Foundation for Educational Resources last winter and the matching donations of OFFER’s capital campaign partners.

OFFER chose to focus on this exciting and evolving area of education as systems across the country are seeing this innovative approach to learning change the playing field for students while effectively preparing them for life after high school.

STEAM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics. This approach to education allows students to virtually learn skills for college and/or the workforce through hands-on experiments, multi-level computer programs, and immersion in particular areas of study.

Lauren Wilson, Oneonta City School Academic Accountability Coordinator, added, “The addition of our STEAM lab provides our students real world, hands-on opportunities to work on collaborative projects that engage them in critical thinking and problem solving.

“Students are allowed to choose topics in the STEAM fields that interest them, and they work to develop an understanding of those topics through research, trial and error, and communication with others. These skills will truly enable students to be successful as they move into high school and college/career.”