Thanks to a $350,000 fundraising campaign, the Ann Arbor Public Schools Educational Foundation has unveiled its Middle School STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) Labs Initiative.
Funds will cover seven middle school labs outfitted with new desktops, 3D printers, drafting software, construction and robotics kits, and teacher training for each school.
With this resource, students will be able to explore and further their interests in the
sciences before high school.
“Community members had expressed the need for earlier STEAM learning and our school district quickly responded by launching a STEAM K-8 school,” said Linh Song, the Educational Foundation’s executive director. “Based on that success, the Educational Foundation agreed to fund labs at the middle school level so that all students can, throughout the school district, have the same opportunity as their peers. We are delighted that individuals, foundations, and corporate donors such as Google, Mckinley, Nutshell, and Stridepost came forward to meet this challenge.”
The initiative aligns with Ann Arbor Public Schools’ plan to implement STEAM curriculum in all elementary schools in the next three years. Currently, all Ann Arbor Public high schools have STEAM labs, curriculum, and trained teachers introducing computer programming and engineering. In raising funds for this work, the Educational Foundation considered research that demonstrates the need for more women and minorities pursuing STEA(A)M careers, as well as the limits of a recent technology bond as to what can and cannot be purchased by the schools.
Superintendent Dr. Jeanice Swift said middle level students in AAPS will now have the opportunity to participate in innovative and engaging programming, developing integrated Science, Engineering, and Technology skills from an earlier age.
“This effort raises the level of play, better preparing them for a successful future in the tech-rich, project-based work environment they will face,” said Swift.
Mike Miller, head of the Ann Arbor office of Google, said it’s increasingly important that students at all levels have a strong foundation in science, technology, engineering, arts, and math.
“The STEAM labs at Ann Arbor Public Schools will ensure that kids have access to the latest technology and are comfortable using it and applying it,” he said. “These labs will also help Ann Arbor and Michigan maintain a competitive advantage to produce top talent for the new economy.”
Miller agreed that some future Google employees were very likely in the room that day.
“I saw some enthusiasm when we cut the ribbon,” he said. “In fact, one girl mentioned, `Let’s go invent something!’ right as it was cut. We love to see that.”