The STEAM TAC program, housed at WVU, helps educators around the state foster student interest and excitement in science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics. It works by bringing immersive experiences, like the one shown here, directly into middle school classrooms. (WVU Photo)

WVU’s STEAM TAC launches second year of engaging, interactive immersions for West Virginia public schools

With public schools back in session, the West Virginia Technical Assistance Center for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics, housed at West Virginia University, is expanding its impact and reach during its second year of immersive, hands-on learning activities.

The STEAM TAC is a statewide organization helping West Virginia educators expand their expertise in delivering engaging science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics learning experiences that foster student interest and excitement.

In just seven months of its first year, the STEAM TAC reached more than 12,300 students and 225 teachers in 109 middle schools across the state. The organization already has an extensive lineup of school visits scheduled for the new academic year.

“The STEAM TAC has provided exceptional experiences that elevate learning for our students in unique and creative ways,” David L. Roach, state superintendent of schools, said. “The teachers and schools that have been involved in these activities have had an overwhelmingly positive response to the program, and I hope more middle schools will participate this school year.”

Philippi Middle School teacher Jamie McGee is already looking forward to another STEAM experience this year.

“The STEAM TAC visit to my eighth-grade science class was outstanding,” McGee said. “All of my students were so engaged throughout the entire project. They absolutely loved it. I would encourage every middle school teacher to give this a try.”

STEAM TAC specialists bring immersive projects or experiences directly into the classroom. They challenge students to design, build and test engineering-type projects while exposing students to STEAM job opportunities right here in West Virginia.

Students can build hydraulic claws while learning about fluid power and careers in agriculture and health care. They can experiment with kinetic energy and explore careers in engineering by designing projectile launchers. They can even learn about electricity, vibrations and career opportunities in construction and manufacturing from the wiggle bot immersion experience.

“Our goal is to make the learning experience fun and accessible for students so they build confidence in their ability to learn and grow at a key time in their lives when they begin to consider what their future holds,” said Donna Hoylman Peduto, executive director of the West Virginia Public Education Collaborative who oversees the daily operations of the STEAM TAC. “Little do they know that they’re also practicing marketable job skills like critical thinking, problem solving, creativity and team building.”

Scott Rotruck, a West Virginia Board of Education member and chair of the WVPEC, also touted how the STEAM TAC helps to empower teachers to infuse an innovative approach to learning year-round thanks to the supplemental resources provided after the immersion. These extension activities and lesson plans also follow the West Virginia Department of Education’s grade-level standards.

“I’ve seen firsthand the students’ enthusiasm and energy as they participate in these immersions,” said Rotruck. “It’s great to see our students so engaged. But the true power of the STEAM TAC is the continued learning resources available to our teachers. They are provided the tools to integrate STEAM learning into their classroom teaching all year long.”

The STEAM TAC is open to all West Virginia public schools serving sixth- through eighth-grade students. Middle school educators are encouraged to sign up for an immersion through their school email accounts by visiting steamtac.wvu.edu.

Plans are also underway to expand the program to ninth and 10th grade students by early 202

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