STEAM- Science * Technology * Engineering * Arts * Mathematical








Engage. Connect. Transform.

The Ann Arbor Educational Foundation (AAEF) supports the development of STEAM programming in Ann Arbor. The Foundation has funded the purchase of STEAM Curriculum from Project Lead The Way (PLTW), which was implemented in all 7 AAPS middle schools in fall of 2015.  This initiative benefited over 3,600 students. The Foundation’s Technology Fund will continue to support ongoing STEAM efforts.




Here are details about this initiative:


AAEF’s goal is to raise $350,000 so that  Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) can purchase STEAM curriculum and training for all 7 AAPS middle schools by Fall 2015.

A2 STEAM @ Northside                    Scarlett Middle School
Ann Arbor Open School                     Slauson Middle School
Clague Middle School                        Tappan Middle School
Forsythe Middle School

Donations will provide professional development for the teachers, update computer labs, and 3D printers for each school.  If we can successfully meet our goal, the curriculum will be implemented in Fall 2015.  Ann Arbor will be among 70 school districts in the country with this offering.  To support this, donors can give to the Educational Foundation as well as participate in coffee sales through our partnership with Sweetwaters Cafe and Lucky’s Market. Our flier can be found here.

What is STEAM?

STEAM is an innovative educational model that encourages students’ curiosity about science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics. Using subject-inclusive, project-based learning, STEAM fosters the skills necessary for successful problem solving, by encouraging a creative, active mind-set that can tackle real-world applications.  Asking questions, experimenting, and developing ideas prides personalized learning paths.  STEAM ensures that all students have something to contribute and something to learn. Allowing students to engage their natural curiosity builds imagination, and attention to detail. The result is a comprehensive education in which students are empowered to develop strengths in all subjects and build essential communication, collaboration, and critical thinking skills.

Recently, the 5th grade classes at A2 STEAM at Northside got to see a graphic demonstration of gravity, which they have been studying in their science unit. As a class, they got to see if two objects of different weights (an egg and a watermelon) fall at the same speed. The students applied science, technology, engineering, and math in a creative and engaging way.

The 6th grade orchestra has taken on an exciting design challenge.  They are designing a safe place to store the cellos and basses. The driving question for this project is, “How can we, as an orchestra, create a safe place to put the cellos and basses that will be efficient to get them out and put them away?”  Again, applying science, technology, engineering, and math in a fun way.  For the students, tackling this question has lead to further questions about the instruments and how they work, leading to further knowledge of a young musician’s love of their craft.  This is another great example of project-based learning at work.


STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education has gotten a great deal of attention for addressing the growing need in public education to prepare children for success in higher education, and better global career opportunities.  The addition of the arts is important for sparking creativity and growing imagination, as well as for keeping kids interested.  Studies show that this leads to higher participation and better problem-solving skills.

The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates that jobs in science, technology, and math will grow 17% by 2018, nearly double the growth of non-STEM fields. By 2018, the U.S. will have more than 1.2 million unfilled STEM jobs. Studies have shown that if interest and enthusiasm in the sciences are not developed by Grade 7, then the students will most likely not show interest again. While AAPS have a history of teaching technology, this remains an area for growth.  For example, currently, there is no Ann Arbor district-wide computer science curriculum at the high school level.

Women make up less than a quarter of the STEM workforce focused in computer and mathematical sciences. STEAM is known for being more engaging and naturally successful for all types of learners, bridging gender disparity, and gaps in knowledge, ability, and culture. This type of learning encourages and builds confidence in girls and boys across the board. While the number of female and minority students studying the sciences has steadily increased each year, there are still a significant gender and race gaps in higher education and the workforce that need to be addressed.

STEAM in Ann Arbor

AAPS has invested nearly $1.16 million in construction and improvements so that students can access one-to-one technology.  The AAPS 2012 Technology Bond raised $45.8 million dedicated to infrastructure, software, and hardware but it does not provide for professional development, curriculum, or supplies such as robotics kits.

Ann Arbor currently has Project Lead the Way(PLTW) STEAM curricula in two schools; A2 STEAM at Northside and Skyline High School. Both schools are testing grounds for the curriculum.  They are in response to the Ann Arbor community’s growing demand for project-based curriculum. Until recently there was a waiting list of over 100 students at Skyline High School.  A2 STEAM at Northside has more than doubled student enrollment from 160 students to over 400, attracting students from throughout Washtenaw County including from private and charter schools.

The Educational Foundation has committed $350,000 in funding so that PLTW can be at an elementary to middle school level. PLTW is the nation’s leading provider of K-12 STEM programs.  The nonprofit provides science curriculum for over 5,000 schools in the U.S.. The Harvard Graduate School of Education, Toyota, and the U.S. Secretary of Education endorse the organization’s work as a way for schools to prepare students for STEAM-oriented careers. There are currently 118 schools offering PLTW programs in Michigan. Although Ann Arbor is known as a Michigan STEM hub and employer, we are behind in providing STEAM educational opportunities to children in the AAPS District.

PLTW’s Gateway program includes engineering and biomedical science curriculum for middle school students.  The program is a strong foundation for future STEAM learning. Using the same advanced software and tools as those used by the world’s leading companies, students engage their natural curiosity and imagination in creative problem solving while applying science, technology, engineering, and math to their everyday lives.

STEAM in Michigan

32 districts in Michigan are currently offering PLTW Gateway programing in all of their middle schools. 4 Michigan districts offer a complete PLTW K-12 Pathway. This means the district is offering Launch (K-5), Gateway (Grades 6-8), and at least one of Computer Science, Biomedical Science, or Engineering, at the high school level, somewhere within the district. These districts include:

Full Lansing School District
Advanced Technology Academy, Dearborn, MI Charlotte Public Schools
Lapeer Community Schools

STEAM Nationwide

Nationwide, there are currently only 208 Districts in which all schools have implemented PLTW.  Only 70 of those districts have more than one school in the district. PLTW’s Gateway program is currently implemented in 723 Districts. 200 of those districts have more than one middle school in the district. 182 districts, in more than 30 states have an example of district-wide implementation, or the complete PLTW K-12 Pathway. A Complete PLTW K-12 Pathway means the district is offering Launch (K-5), Gateway (Grades 6-8), and at least one of Computer Science, Biomedical Science, or Engineering, at the high school level, somewhere within the district.