STEAM Education Centre in St. Thomas has launched its new website (www.steameducation.ca) and revealed the initial four proposals selected from a public call for ideas. Solutions to these community issues will be prototyped through providing experiential learning projects at all academic levels. The innovative community-focused project called STEAM Community Studio launched November 10th thanks to the generous financial and visionary support of the Estate of Donna Vera Evans Bushell.
The specific projects were selected through consultations with individuals and groups to identify persistent local issues that need to be addressed in innovative ways. The selected proposals are:
- Reducing waste: Finding reuse for items in a cluttered world – Using design thinking, students will be asked to prototype a physical process to enable reuse at the City of St. Thomas Community Recycling Centre
- Creating Welcoming Sensory Spaces – This proposal will see students prototyping a modular sensory wall to assist the Wellkin Child & Youth Mental Wellness Centre in their programming
- Creating a Virtual Marketplace – The Downtown Development Board proposal recognizes that this global pandemic has had a massive effect on our SMEs. For those accustomed to brick and mortar sales, this has become a race to capture an online presence in order to succeed. Students will be provided with an experiential learning opportunity to prototype solutions to assist local business owners to utilize technology to gain more of this market share
- Audio/Video Production Studio for Youth Skillbuilding – This project, submitted by Ignite Youth Centre will create an opportunity for youth skill-building through the planning of the establishment of an audio-video production studio and then utilizing the space for continual learning.
Inspired by a concept pioneered in Vancouver and developed in other large cities across Canada, STEAM Community Studio is a model of experiential learning and civic engagement that will foster collaboration between students and key community stakeholders including academics, teachers, and political, community and business leaders. This three-year pilot project will feature six workshops annually in which STEAM team members and participants examine challenges facing the St. Thomas -Elgin County community, and assemble a group of students and stakeholders to explore the issues at play, propose potential solutions, and develop recommendations to address the problems. Reports will be produced regularly to prompt conversation and discussion in the community. Funding will be available for select organizations to support new approaches to solving problems and to encourage continuous improvement.
The potential benefits for students and our community are limitless. Local organizations and municipal projects will receive additional support to address strategic problems, students will gain valuable problem-solving skills and professional networks through projects that align with their education, and our community will see the benefits directly as solutions help shape a better and brighter future for all.
To activate the STEAM Community Studio, the Estate of Donna Bushell has generously provided $225,000 to fund the initiative for the start-up period of three years. This will include up to $2000 each for organizations that participate in the workshop series and want to execute viable, original projects to address the challenges identified throughout the process.
Andrew Gunn and Maddie King of Andrew Gunn Consulting and young & free press are acting as consultants on the Bushell Estate. “Many of the projects that we are supporting through the Estate have focused on making physical improvements to our community, from building a new park to installing artwork to planting trees,” Gunn remarks. “With the STEAM Community Studio, we are investing directly in people who can help move our community forward by developing a dynamic, rigorous process that provides a new way for businesses and charitable organizations in Elgin County and St. Thomas to address ongoing challenges. This is an innovative approach for small cities and rural areas that typically do not have post-secondary institutions or social research centres. We believe that the STEAM Community Studio will become an academic hub that offers a smart, efficient way to bring thought-leaders together to address real-life challenges.”