District 163 STEAMs Ahead with $2.3 Million Grant

Dr. Caletha White, Mark Diaz, Joseph Spilberg, Lance L. Jefferson, Scott Sikkema, cape, STEAM, SD 163
Dr. Caletha White, from left, District 163 superintendent designate, Mark Diaz, CAPE’s associate director of education, Joseph Spilberg, CAPE”S associate director of education, Lance L. Jefferson, District 163 board of education president, and Scott Sikkema, CAPE education director, recently gathered to talk about plans for the four-year STEAM Ahead grant. (PHOTO SUPPLIED)

Park Forest, IL-(ENEWSPF)- Park Forest-Chicago Heights School District 163 will collaborate with Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education (CAPE), a non-profit community-based organization, on the STEAM Ahead project. The U.S. Department of Education’s Assistance for Arts Education Development and Dissemination grant program awarded CAPE, in partnership with School District 163, a grant of $2,257,596 to support the project through a competitive process. CAPE received one of the 22 grants awarded across 13 states nationally, out of 96 applications reviewed. District 163 is the only school district in Illinois that is a STEAM Ahead grant partner.

STEAM Ahead will enrich kindergarten through fifth grades STEAM (science, technology, arts, mathematics) curriculum. The STEAM Ahead grant will span a four-year period and will provide the District’s art and STEAM teachers and kindergarten-fifth grades students with access to CAPE’s professional Teaching Artists and staff who are steeped in STEAM strategies, techniques and research. Professional development for the STEAM and art teachers and classroom supplies and materials also will be provided through the grant.

The District staff and the CAPE team will work together during the life of the grant to create a guide that will be a model for kindergarten-fifth grades teachers throughout the nation, according to Scott Sikkema, CAPE’s education director. He noted during a presentation at a District 163 Education Committee meeting that since 2003, CAPE has received four of these grants, which come through the U.S. Department of Education in the form of an Assistance for Arts Education Development and Dissemination (AAEDD) grant. CAPE’s research indicated that each grant program demonstrated growth in teacher capacity and student achievement. An outside evaluator will review the CAPE-District 163 STEAM Ahead program at its conclusion.

“We are looking forward to our four-year partnership with CAPE to enrich our arts programs and continue to provide a high quality education in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics,” said Dr. Caletha White, District 163 superintendent designate.  “We are committed to developing the whole child through engaging and innovative learning experiences.  The STEAM Ahead program will enhance our ongoing efforts to fully engage learners and increase interest in STEAM careers.”

District 163 principals, STEAM and art teachers, cape, Michelle Obama School
District 163 principals and STEAM and art teachers and CAPE (Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education) representatives participated in an introductory meeting at Michelle Obama School that outlined the goals and activities of the $2,257,596 STEAM Ahead grant. (PHOTO SUPPLIED)

The CAPE representatives said that the District art teachers would partner with CAPE’s professional teaching artists to co-design and co-teach STEAM curricula. These teaching artists also will co-teach STEAM-integrated sessions with STEAM and classroom teachers from kindergarten through fifth grade. This multi-leveled approach will ensure that participating students benefit from inquiry-based, collaborative STEAM projects in their art rooms and daily classrooms, while also enriching and expanding their teachers’ abilities to weave the arts into science, technology, engineering, and math lessons. During the Education Committee meeting, Joseph Spilberg, associate director of education, added that the CAPE strategies involve immersing students in their learning in engaging ways.

Beginning in March 2019 and continuing through the 2021-2022 school year, the STEAM Ahead program will provide District 163 art teachers and classroom teachers with ongoing professional development that will address:

  • Approaches to STEM and arts integration (STEAM)
  • Collaborative and inquiry-based planning and teaching, and
  • Innovative and effective standards-based teaching and learning that addresses state and national science, math, and core arts standards.

“This is a phenomenal opportunity for District 163,” said Dr. Joyce Carmine, District 163 interim superintendent. “The project will continue to promote our school district’s mission to provide innovative and progressive programming with learning opportunities that capture our students’ talents, nurture their imagination, and inspire new ways of thinking. Through Dr. White’s efforts to establish this partnership, our School District and our students will benefit from 21st century learning at its best.”

Lance Jefferson, president of District 163’s Board of Education, commented, “The association with CAPE and the receipt of this wonderful grant are among the many ways that District 163 opens doors for its students. The CAPE partnership affords our students and teachers with exposure to unlimited learning opportunities. I look forward to seeing the enriching classroom learning that I know will occur.”

The teachers also indicated enthusiasm for STEAM Ahead. Andrea Finnan, STEAM teacher at 21st Century Primary Center, said, “The STEAM team is very excited about this opportunity.  We look forward to learning and working together with the CAPE staff as well as classroom and art teachers to enhance the children’s STEAM experience throughout the curriculum.”

With Ms. Finnan, the STEAM teachers include Lori Mitchell, Mohawk Primary Center, and Eileen Ward, Blackhawk Primary Center. The art teachers are Patricia Sanborn-Novikas, Michelle Obama School; Francesca Wessley, Barack Obama School; and Hannah Matos, 21st Century, Mohawk, and Blackhawk.

This is a release from Park Forest-Chicago Heights School District 163.