Skip to main content

WVU, WVPEC, W Va. Dept. of Education launch program to make learning STEAM-TACular, bolster lifelong skills

three people work at high table with lab-like instruments

STEAM TAC specialists Melissa Bane, Cliff Sullivan and Angie McDaniel test their hydraulic claw designs while discussing how fluid mechanics and energy transfer relates to medical innovations in prosthetics, which will be one of the STEAM experiences middle school educators can choose when signing up for a STEAM TAC classroom immersion.

Download full-size

Under the guise of fun yet unusual-sounding projects like hydraulic claws, projectile launchers and wiggle bots, West Virginia middle schoolers now have the opportunity to engage in learning experiences that will prepare them to become the state’s newest generation of innovative thinkers and problem solvers.

To help students build confidence and gain lifelong skills like critical thinking and problem solving, West Virginia University, the West Virginia Department of Education and the West Virginia Public Education Collaborative have launched a new Technical Assistance Center for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics. The new STEAM TAC is currently open to all West Virginia public schools serving sixth through eighth grade students throughout 2022 and aims to expand the program to all students in grades six through twelve in years to come.

“Our fundamental purpose at West Virginia University is to enhance educational opportunities for everyone, and this exciting collaboration builds on the existing relationships we have with schools across our state – especially important given that STEAM learning is known to prepare more students for college and high-demand jobs, both of which will help lead us toward a stronger, more prosperous West Virginia,” West Virginia University President Gordon Gee said.

While headquartered in Morgantown, the new STEAM TAC will not have a designated office space. STEAM specialists will travel to schools around West Virginia and work directly in classrooms with teachers and students who sign up for a STEAM classroom immersion.  

These cross-disciplinary “immersions,” which may be completed during a typical class period of 40 to 60 minutes, will prompt students to solve relatable, real-world challenges through design thinking (envision building those robots, launchers and claws). Incorporating a variety of subject areas from science, social studies, mathematics, to English and the arts, each immersion will be tailored to grade level and induce learning experiences that may help students tackle issues in their local communities. They will also focus on different sets of career clusters that provide students with clear connections to jobs in the Mountain State.

Customized lesson plans, toolkits and instructional resources will also be provided to participating teachers – free of charge – that they can incorporate into their classroom teaching year-round.

“One of the best aspects of this program is that STEAM specialists will work hand-in-hand with teachers to prepare students with the knowledge and skills they will need to be successful in today’s dynamic economy,” WVU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Maryanne Reed, said. “West Virginia STEAM TAC will help to build a strong pipeline from Pre-K-12 to higher education and into the job market.”   

State Superintendent of Schools W. Clayton Burch agreed. “This unique collaboration will help West Virginia’s next generation keep pace with an ever-evolving workforce landscape,” he said. “Our goal is to empower educators to integrate STEAM exercises into their classroom teaching and help motivate our students to think about their futures. It’s a win-win for our West Virginia educators and students.”

In celebration of the new Center and the state’s emphasis on STEAM education, sixth graders and their teachers around West Virginia celebrated STEAM learning today.

Mountaineer Middle School hosted local and state officials along with education leaders for the STEAM TAC’s grand opening ceremony in Morgantown. Meanwhile, the Center’s new STEAM specialists joined staff from the West Virginia Department of Education and WVU Extension agents to visit four middle schools in Logan, McDowell, Mingo and Wyoming counties to demonstrate interactive STEAM activities and underscore the STEAM TAC’s statewide reach.

Donna Hoylman Peduto, executive director of the West Virginia Public Education Collaborative and STEAM TAC director, said that the Center has already hit the ground running.

“From day one we are engaging with middle school students to help get them into the STEAM mindset and excite them about these upcoming STEAM experiences while cultivating partnerships with STEAM-focused organizations,” she said.

During the opening ceremony, Peduto announced that the Center of Science and Industry, based in Columbus, Ohio, is the STEAM TAC’s first of many partnerships they will forge in the years to come.

“COSI shares the same passion for STEAM education as we do and will help bring new, innovative ways to inspire and empower our students to learn and practice STEAM skills,” she said.

COSI joined West Virginia’s makeshift STEAM Day and participated in the opening ceremony by performing the famous “elephant toothpaste” science experiment. They also created 2,000 Learning Lunchbox STEAM energy kits to distribute to students and families around West Virginia.

Filled with activities and information that align with West Virginia learning standards, each learning lunchbox highlights career paths in the energy sector and provides extension learning through COSI’s digital portal, COSI Connects. The kits were designed in partnership with the National Energy Technology Laboratory and the U.S. Department of Energy and contain over 10 hours of content so youth can conduct the experiments in their classrooms or at home.

Not only did COSI hand out kits to every sixth grader at Mountaineer Middle School, but they also delivered 1,200 kits to 20 middle schools in southern West Virginia, supplied kits to all West Virginia superintendents and traveled to Wheeling after the ceremony to distribute 250 additional learning lunchbox kits to underserved youth and families at a local foodbank as part of its community roadshow model. 

“We are excited to partner with West Virginia’s STEAM TAC to engage, inspire and transform youth across the state,” COSI President Frederic Bertley said. "These Learning Lunchbox kits will engage students with fun hands-on experiences, leading to interactive learning and excitement around science. We are thankful for the leadership of Superintendent Burch, Governor Justice, President Gee and the State of West Virginia for their partnership.”

“We want to make learning STEAM-TACular and show the limitless opportunities for our sixth, seventh and eighth graders to immerse themselves in STEAM learning,” Peduto said. “As West Virginia educators understand the value of this program and sign up for their STEAM immersions, we believe the face of STEAM teaching and learning will change in our state. The more our teachers integrate these practices into their teaching routines, the more our students can practice these learned skills that will help set them up for a lifetime of success.”  

Learn more about the STEAM TAC and how educators can schedule a STEAM classroom immersion



CONTACT: Katie Farmer
Communications Director and Marketing Strategist, Office of the Provost

Call 1-855-WVU-NEWS for the latest West Virginia University news and information from WVUToday.

Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.