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Woolslair Elementary Moving Full STEAM Ahead

By Dave Breingan, Lawrenceville United

A year ago, the future of Woolslair Elementary was uncertain. Pittsburgh Public Schools had recommended closing it, and although the school board rescinded the closure, parents and staff worried that this was only a temporary situation.

Today, the outlook for the school is much brighter. Beginning in the 2015-2016 school year, Woolslair will be a partial magnet school with a new curriculum focused on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math), which emphasizes hands-on learning and uses different disciplines to complete projects related to real-world issues.

Woolslair combined

This new vision for the school came from a grassroots effort made up of Woolslair parents, staff, and community members, who planned for months and then successfully lobbied the school board to approve their plan.

“We really all came together to decide what we wanted the future of this school to look like in the long-term,” says Valerie Allman, a Woolslair parent who was active in the planning and attended professional development alongside teachers during the summer to get educated on STEAM curricula.

Parents with kids approaching kindergarten age seem just as excited about the new vision. “STEAM is the future,” says Amber Thompson, a Manchester resident whose daughter is starting kindergarten at Woolslair next year. “Our kids need to be well-rounded if they’re going to be prepared for the 21st century.”

Ms. Thompson says she was also drawn to the culture of the school. “It seems like Woolslair is a real community, and the supports are there for the children.”

Although changes to the curriculum won’t begin until next school year, Woolslair teachers have already implemented an afterschool club teaching Scratch, a tool that allows students to learn the basics of computer programming by building their own video games and animations, in partnership with the Sprout Fund’s Digital Corps. Students are also building and programming robots, and the club recently held a special three-hour session to host the National STEM Video Game Challenge Tour, where Woolslair students had the chance to compete against other kids across the nation.

Next year, all students in grades K-2 will receive the new STEAM programming, and an additional grade level will be added each year. Families residing in Bloomfield, Lower Lawrenceville, Friendship, Polish Hill, and the Strip District still have automatic entrance to the school. City residents outside these neighborhoods can also apply through the magnet process. Spots are still available. For more information or to enroll, please contact Woolslair at (412) 529-8800.