STEAM Partners Make a Lasting Impact on Metro Schools

You’ve probably heard the acronyms “STEM” and “STEAM” before, but do you know what they really mean to Nashville Public Schools and PENCIL Partners?

We asked current STEAM Partners to tell us how their volunteer engagements in Metro Schools provide insight into real-world science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics for students. Julie Berbiglia from Metro Water Services has been involved with MNPS for over 20 years and says, “The excitement from teachers and students to learn new concepts and look at real-world environmental challenges keeps bringing me back to work with Metro classes.” 

In 2021, Berbiglia went to Head Magnet Middle School with a hands-on project for students that challenged them to create barriers that would keep construction sediment out of a nearby waterway. Similarly, Marc Pearson, PENCIL STEAM Partner from Stantec, engaged with students at Isaac Litton Middle School in a STEAM project focused on natural hazards, flooding, and how students can help keep their communities safe from future disasters. Pearson said, “Students quickly understood how putting a solution in one spot can often have downstream consequences,” referencing the disaster-preparedness activity. After seeing the success of the STEAM project, Pearson remarked, “Their capacity to problem-solve is truly amazing, and it’s inspirational to see how quickly students realized that protecting communities extends far beyond political boundaries.” 

Another STEAM PENCIL Partner, Rosie Forrest from OZ Arts Nashville, conducted a STEAM activity at Antioch Middle School where students from 11 classrooms created mandala art pieces while using mathematics principles of symmetry and triangulation and an advanced visual art technique called “Neurographic” Art. Forrest says that engaging in MNPS is part of the OZ Arts mission, and an arts-integrated curriculum develops creative problem-solving, creative expression, cultural appreciation, and community building, which more and more industries are seeking in job applicants today. This sentiment is echoed by Katie Petrole from the Parthenon who recently completed a virtual STEAM “Expedition” for students from Isaac Litton, Jere Baxter, and IT Creswell Middle Schools. 

“I cannot describe how wonderful it was to hear the students’ questions about ancient architecture and then see their dedication to crafting colorful, vibrant images of ancient Greece,” Petrole shared after a successful STEAM engagement that integrated arts, math, engineering, and even history into one activity.  

PENCIL loves hearing about STEAM engagements like these, and we encourage everyone in the Greater Nashville community to get involved. The Family Resource Coordinator at Hattie Cotton STEM Magnet Elementary School expressed that these partnerships are impactful to both the school and the partner. Howell said, “Even one experience can then encourage students to be more inquisitive and curious in their everyday lives, and simple interactions can set off a positive chain reaction. With the amount on the plate of classroom teachers and school staff, partnerships can really expand possibilities for students and schools.”  

According to Johnella Cherry, the Restorative Practice Coach and Community Achieves Liaison at Stratford STEM Lower Campus, “Becoming a PENCIL STEAM Partner means you are helping, giving, and teaching a vision of hope for those in need.”  

At PENCIL, we think so, too. If you are interested in becoming a PENCIL STEAM Partner, let us know! Send an email to PENCIL Partnership Manager Esther Bailey-Bass to get started today.