Hitchcock Receives Prestigious Commonwealth Award for STEM to STEAM Program with Holyoke Public Schools

A Holyoke student illustrates dragonfly larvae.

A Holyoke student illustrates dragonfly larvae.

By Patty O’Donnell

February 24, 2015

The Hitchcock Center is excited to announce that, in partnership with Enchanted Circle Theater (ECT), it is receiving a prestigious 2015 Commonwealth Award. Presented every two years by the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC), the Commonwealth Awards shine a spotlight on the extraordinary contributions made by the arts, sciences, and humanities to education, economic vitality, and quality of life in communities across the state. The Hitchcock Center and ECT won the award for an individual, school, or cultural organization that has successfully fused learning in the arts with science, technology, engineering, and math – STEM to STEAM (the addition of the “A” stands for arts). The award honors a unique collaboration between Hitchcock and ECT to deepen students’ understanding of science and the arts in the Holyoke Public Schools. The Commonwealth Awards Ceremony will be held at the State House in Boston on February 24th.

“We are thrilled to receive this top honor from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Our long-standing partnership with the Enchanted Circle Theater and the Holyoke Public School District has grown into a new model of teaching that taps the innate creativity and questioning minds of children while making learning fun and memorable,” said Hitchcock Center Executive Director Julie Johnson.

Last spring the Hitchcock Center, ECT, and the Holyoke Public Schools, with funding by the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) developed and facilitated an 11-day science and arts integrated program in all 5th grade classrooms in Holyoke.  Additional collaborating partners included the Connecticut River Watershed Council, United Water (operators of the Holyoke Waste Water Treatment Facility), and the City of Holyoke.

Holyoke student observes microbes used to treat wastewater.

Holyoke student observes microbes used to treat wastewater.

Over 300 students from 16 classrooms in 6 schools throughout the City of Holyoke participated in hands-on science lessons to explore the water cycle, groundwater, and the Connecticut River watershed with HCE educator Patty O’Donnell.

Teaching artists, Terre Vandale and Kate Carreiro from ECT, completed the residency by guiding students through the process of interpreting the science they had learned trough poetry and art. The culminating project – the design of Storm Drain Art creations – flowed beyond the classroom, into an ongoing community-wide citizen science project.

The eight most visually effective Storm Drain designs were chosen through a juried art contest, and have been in the process of being rendered and installed by a professional artist on storm drains at various locations in the City of Holyoke. The first storm drain art installation was installed at Holyoke City Hall.

Holyoke student artists, Ariana Scribner and Issac Aponte pose with their storm drain art.

Holyoke student artists, Ariana Scribner and Issac Aponte pose with their storm drain art.

An  official unveiling of the installations and student poetry took place during a community-wide festival, The Art of Clean Water: A Family Celebration, on November 8, 2014. Students, parents and community leaders, including the Mayor Alex Morse were on hand to congratulate, celebrate and honor the importance of art, combined with science in Holyoke and along the Connecticut River.

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