School turns loss into a positive with added STEAM curriculum

After losing their school to an F5 tornado in April 2011, University Place Elementary School in Tuscaloosa, AL wanted to turn the misfortune of losing their school building into an advantage: instead of just switching to a new building, the faculty also wanted to switch to a new curriculum. They settled on STEAM, a curriculum based on science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and the arts. “Our students have great creativity. We saw the creativity of STEAM would add another facet,” Principal Deron Cameron said regarding his school’s decision.

University Place Elementary School is just one of several schools who have taken up the STEAM approach. Other schools have dubbed the curriculum as “STEM and Beyond,” noting that it gives them a chance to reach out to all students and not just the ones who solely excel in straight academics. At Taylor Elementary School in Virginia, students are able to learn about the plant lifecycle by creating songs to represent the stages of the plant lifecycle via GarageBand. 
STEAM enables students to easily understand a topic that may have been difficult to grasp by just reading a textbook. Of course, not all STEAM programs are alike: each school develops their own curriculum based on what their students need. For example, one school collaborated with the local community, enabling students to become city planners who created cities using cereal box buildings, which were then reviewed by the community’s actual city planner. Despite the variations in STEAM programs, those who use it all agree that STEAM stresses the need for try and fail, giving students a chance to open up to subjects that may have been difficult for them to understand beforehand.
To read the full article: “For These Schools, Adding Arts to STEM Boosts Curriculum” on T|H|E Journal, click here.
Want to learn more about your students’ interest in STEM? Participate in Speak Up! The Speak Up National Research Project give you the opportunity to contribute to the national dialog about science, technology & preparing students for the 21st century workforce! This year we are asking students, parents and community members to share the types of college and workplace skills that they think students should be learning in school to be sucessful in the future, what is needed to acuire those skills as well as student’s overall STEM career interest.

To participate in Speak Up go to, surveys are available to students, educators, parents and community members.  To get your school, district or organization involved please contact Jenny Hostert at

Thanks for reading!

-The Project Tomorrow Team

Written by Lisa Chu, Project Tomorrow Fall 2013 Intern

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