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Grant money to go toward 'STEAM' lab at Plum school

| Wednesday, June 5, 2013, 8:27 p.m.

Justin Stephans couldn't sleep one night last week.

Stephans, who this school year became principal of Regency Park Elementary in the Plum School District, was ecstatic by the news that the school is a recipient of a $20,000 grant that will be used to convert one of the classrooms into a “STEAM” lab.

“I had trouble sleeping,” Stephans said. “The students will be excited.”

Regency Park was selected by the Allegheny Intermediate Unit's (AIU) Center for Creativity for the grant for the STEAM — Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics — lab.

A total of 80 grant applications were submitted, according to AIU officials.

The grants are made available through funding from both the Benedum and Grable foundations.

“The grant process was very competitive,” said Rosanne Javorsky, assistant executive director of teaching and learning at the AIU.

Stephans said he and Regency Park teachers Martha Freese and Kelly Bechtold completed the application.

“It has been my focus to introduce it to the school,” Stephans said.

He noted the grant money will be used to turn one of the school's classrooms into a lab that will include colored walls, areas for students to do problems on the walls, smartboards, laptops and iPads.

Stephans said the method of instruction differs from a typical classroom that focuses on teachers lecturing students.

“The main difference (from a traditional classroom) is that it (the STEAM lab) is hands-on learning with student-centered learning and students working in teams,” Stephans said.

All students at Regency Park will have an opportunity to use the room that will be signed out by individual teachers.

According to the school's application for the grant, some of the key activities students will participate in through the STEAM lab are: observing the differences in light level during the summer and winter; recording what happens to the temperature as different amounts of warm and cold water are mixed together; determining how long it takes a person's hands to get cold wearing different kinds of mittens; designing and building a mobile robot for pinpointing the location of a hidden magnet; and combining craft materials and robotic components to build and animate their own robotic creations.

In addition to the different projects students will have an opportunity to participate in, Stephans aims for the lab to increase students' participation in the school's annual science fair and art show.

Stephans said the lab is expected to be completed for the start of school.

The lab is intended to be a permanent fixture in the school, Stephans said.

“It will benefit students yearly,” Stephans said.

“We are really excited and proud.”

Karen Zapf is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8753, or

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