Ann Arbor middle schools open STEAM labs after $350,000 fundraising campaign

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By Lindsay Knake | lknake@mlive.com

What was once a wood shop is now a 21st century learning lab at Scarlett Middle School in Ann Arbor.

Thanks to a $350,000 fundraising effort by the Ann Arbor Public Schools Educational Foundation, Ann Arbor Public Schools opened new STEAM labs at each of its seven middle schools. Donors included Google, Mckinley, Nutshell and Stridepost of Ann Arbor.

The foundation and district officially opened and dedicated the labs on Tuesday, Nov. 17 at Scarlett Middle School.

Fundraising for the project kicked off in March. McKinley donated $50,000 to the project.

The new science, technology, engineering, arts and math labs include robotics kits, 3D printers, drafting software, saws and tools, among other equipment.

“We are effectively preparing students for the future they will face,” said Superintendent Jeanice Swift at the ribbon cutting.

McKinley Chief Executive Officer Albert Berriz told students they have an extraordinary opportunity with the labs.

“The intersection of art and math is creativity,” he said. “Seize the opportunity.”

The renovations in the lab at Scarlett, room 145, include murals students painted on the floor where heavy-duty tables once sat.

Science teacher Leslie Baugh, who is based in the classroom, said the lab gives students the opportunity to do hands-on work they can be proud of and take ownership in.

All sixth-grade students in Ann Arbor schools will take an exploratory class in the labs, said Tom Pachera, a Skyline High School teacher who heads Project Lead the Way, a STEAM initiative across the district.

Students will use the tools and equipment to learn programming to building and use Google apps to document their work. Ultimately, he said, students will build digital portfolios through middle and high school he hopes they’ll be able to use in college applications.

Yanisa Aquino, a 13-year-old eighth-grader at Scarlett, took at 3-D programming class in the new lab this year.

“It was really interesting,” she said. “It’s so different from last year. It’s amazing.”

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