Leadership Dorchester is currently working to build the very first STEAM Lab at Summerville Elementary School and recently received a grant from the Dorchester County Public Library.
The grant, which was awarded to the library through the Library Services and Technology Act is a total of $51,000.
The Library Services and Technology Act gives federal funds annually to the state libraries of all 50 states to aid in the development of educational programs and information services. The South Carolina State Library received $2,636,653 in allotted funds from the program for 2019.
The state library then accepts applications from different public libraries throughout the state for opportunities to be awarded grants up to $50,000. This year the Dorchester County Public Library was selected to receive a grant for their efforts to support Leadership Dorchester in building a STEAM Lab at Summerville Elementary.
STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math. STEAM hopes to combine the arts alongside of regular STEM subjects to better prepare students for the ever-changing world around them. STEAM hopes to combine the technological aspects of STEM with the creative and design aspects of art.
Robert Antill of the Dorchester County Library said that the grant will be used by the library to buy equipment, like robots and drones for the lab, as well as fund things such as insurance too.
Principal Katie Barker said that the school began to focus on this type of innovative learning at the end of the 2017-2018 school year. She said that the school recognized that STEAM skills were essential for students.
“Through discussions with teachers, our School Improvement Council, and students, we felt that a focus on science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math was the way of the future,” Barker said.
The school had been actively working to raise funds for the lab for most of the year through the efforts of the School Improvement Council and the PTO. The PTO was able to give $6,000 to the project, however more help was welcome. Barker said that the project with Leadership Dorchester could not have come at a better time.
Leadership Dorchester is a community group that is coordinated by the Greater Summerville and Dorchester County Chamber of Commerce. The group designates a project each year that they feel will be sustainable and have a significant impact on the community.
Jordan Bryngelson of Leadership Dorchester said that partnering with Summerville Elementary School on this project was a great fit for the organization. Bryngelson said that Leadership Dorchester is committed to growing leaders in the area and that investing in schools is a huge part of their mission.
“Leadership Dorchester is a program to grow leaders within our community,” he said. “As business people involved in our community we are dedicated to building a strong local economy, and promoting the Greater Summerville area. STEAM is an important component to where we see new and future job growth. By investing in building the STEAM Lab we are opening the doors to a broader range of students at a younger age in an effort to impact the next generation of community leaders and business people.”
The STEAM Lab will have an indoor and outdoor space available for students to use. There will also be a professional lab technician to aid teachers in the development of learning plans that incorporate all of the elements of STEAM learning. The lessons will be hands-on and will be standards-based as well.
“We are most excited to integrate all STEAM components and watch all that students learn and discover,” Barker said.
When students work in the lab the lesson will focus on STEAM. The lesson will allow students to solve problems through trial and error and work with one another to solve problems. The school hopes that this will help the students also develop communication skills.
“The focus of the lab is science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math, but students will also have to collaborate, communicate, and connect with one another. These are lifelong skills that every person needs to be successful long-term,” Barker said.
Summerville Elementary School officials are hopeful the STEAM Lab will help students on state tests and aid in their development of creative problem solving. Another goal of the school and district is to always evolve and change as the world does as well.
“Our goal for the STEAM Lab is to see a positive impact on our state test scores,” Barker said, “but most importantly, it is to inspire greatness in the students of Summerville Elementary through creative problem solving. The STEAM Lab allows us to do this in a unique, innovative, and world-class way.”
Robert Antill of the Dorchester County Library said that if the Summerville Elementary Steam Laboratory proves to be a success there is a plan to re-apply for another grant and build a mobile STEAM Lab that can travel to all of the schools in Dorchester County.
The library hopes to be able to hire a full-time STEAM librarian, who can travel with the lab to all of the elementary schools in Dorchester County.
Leadership Dorchester hopes that more schools will be able to use the STEAM Lab at Summerville Elementary School as a model to create their own STEAM labs. They are also working with Williams Memorial Elementary in Dorchester District Four to improve its “Tinker” Lab Space and outfit it with new technology.
Leadership Dorchester members who have careers in STEAM are planning on embarking on a speaking tour in the fall to discuss what careers in STEAM are and what they look like as well.
The Dorchester County Library will be required by stipulations in the grant to give quarterly reports about the STEAM Lab its impact on Summerville Elementary.
The opening of the STEAM Lab is scheduled for Sept. 3. Businesses can sponsor the project through the its website.