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New Technology Programs Enhance Learning at Duquesne School

By Cami DiBattista
The Tube City Almanac
September 13, 2018
Posted in: Duquesne News

(Students at Duquesne Elementary School learn how to use a MakerBot 3D printer. Duquesne City School District photo via Facebook)

Duquesne City School District students were excited to learn about some new programs and opportunities awaiting them when they began school this year.

A new coding program called Codes and Bots --- complete with a new lab space for elementary students to utilize --- an addition to the curriculum for the 2018-2019 school year.

Dubbed the CAB Lab, the area has been stocked with virtual reality googles, 3-D printers, iMacs, LEGO racers, light tables and other new equipment. Additionally, iPads were distributed to all students for use during school hours.

“Students can benefit a lot from this type of hands-on learning,” said Stan Whiteman, the assistant principal for the Duquesne School District. “Success in the 21st century workplace will require a deep and intuitive knowledge of coding, robotics and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics) subjects and the opportunity to include this resource is a great addition to our school.”

The program was made possible through a $16,500 grant provided by the Grable Foundation and the Hillman Foundation.

This is the 10th consecutive year that the Grable Foundation and others have provided support for STEAM projects in the Pittsburgh region.

The STEAM grants are being distributed by the Allegheny Intermediate Unit’s Center for Creativity, which was developed with the support of the foundations.

About $365,000 in STEAM catalyst grants were distributed at the beginning of the school year. Twenty-three schools in Allegheny, Beaver, Lawrence, Mercer and Westmoreland counties were chosen as recipients and will utilized their grants to increase STEAM opportunities. 

“We are extremely grateful to the AIU and the Grable Foundation for giving us the opportunity to apply for and receive the Catalyst and other STEAM grants, which we have used to create our STEAM labs,” Whiteman said. “We have been able to use them to repurpose spaces and build programs for our students.  We are optimistic that these will help bolster our test scores in science.  For us, these grants really make a difference.”

Through the efforts of AIU and educational donors, school districts throughout southwestern Pennsylvania have received nearly $4 million in STEAM grants over the past ten years, according to Sarah McCluan, AIU supervisor of communication services.

“The grants are intended to support efforts to expand coding instruction across the curriculum and repurpose space to support deeper learning,” McCluan said. “As a direct result of the grants, a variety of unique learning environments and programs will be created throughout the region.”

Rosanne Javorsky, the AIU’s interim executive director, said the grants are just one example of how the AIU, its community partners and school districts are working together to build capacity and equity in the region.

“Over the last decade, the distribution of STEAM grants have allowed teachers and school administrators to build programs that truly make a difference in student learning,” she said. “By working together as a region, our agencies and institutions are not only able to make an impact on the individual child, but also build capacity in our school systems.”

Duquesne’s Codes and Bots program will coincide with the district’s recent efforts to overhaul and retro-fit many of its classrooms to focus on STEAM opportunities.

Over the past three years, the district had designed and innovated two makerspaces for students to utilize – the Creation Station designed for students in grades pre K to 2, and the Boiler Room, for students in grades 3 to 6. 

The spaces were designed to foster innovation, promote critical thinking and engage students in collaborative efforts to build interpersonal communication skills.

Teachers will take their students to the CAB Lab regularly, just like they do with the existing STEAM classes.

Students will be working with coding applications and robots such as learning Swift Playground (an Apple product), block-based coding, Bird Brain technologies and Lego Robotics, Whiteman said.

“Everyone will have the opportunity to benefit from the program,” he said. “Students in grades 4-6 will probably use the room the most.”

(Duquesne City School District photo via Facebook)

Another new space added to the school this year is the new media central room, which student news crew participants will have the opportunity to utilize to make daily announcements.

Students will learn to capture and edit film and produce their very own daily new channel.

“In Duquesne’s Media Central, students will report on special events around the school, weather, and maybe events in the community,” Whiteman said.

Also new this year, the district has installed a brand-new security system.

“Safety has always been a priority and over the summer the district installed the new system,” McCluan said. “In addition to its preventative mental health and social services, Duquesne Elementary has a full-time security staff and all teachers have completed ALICE safety training.”

Originally published September 13, 2018.

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